Victims defiant: immunity is just not acceptable
Victims have told the DUP face-to-face that they will never accept limited immunity over Troubles-related deaths.
In a meeting at Stormont yesterday, groups from across Northern Ireland travelled to Belfast to defiantly tell a DUP delegation that they would accept nothing less than prosecutions.
It came as Sammy Wilson said that the party would back immunity in cases where victims agreed to extend it to perpetrators. Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph revealed that some form of immunity was one of the options which parties involved in the Haass process had been asked to consider.
Innocent Victims United (IVU), an umbrella organisation of 21 victims' groups with a combined membership of 11,000 people, met the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson and Jonathan Bell yesterday. Rev Mervyn Gibson of the Orange Order was also in attendance, as he is part of the DUP delegation within the Haass talks.
Kenny Donaldson of IVU said: "Having had loved ones murdered, the constituency of victims and survivors which we represent have had to endure the lion's share of hurt in the 'so-called' price of political compromise and of embedding a peace process.
"It is not in any politician's gift or anyone else's to give away or trade justice."
Mr Wilson signalled a shift in DUP policy over immunity during an appearance on the Nolan Show yesterday. He said: "Now, some of those who are hurting say: 'This is the only way that we believe we can get the information which will deal with the hurt which we have experienced'. Then I think it will be very difficult for anyone to say 'we are going to deny you that.'"
But Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was gunned down by the IRA in 1984, said those behind the murder must be held to account. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, she said: "My beautiful sister Mary, my beautiful sister. What right do I have to say she doesn't deserve justice? I don't have that right. Her right to live was taken away from her by those who murdered her."
Meanwhile, Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein's former director of publicity, said that very few IRA members would come forward to tell what they know under the sort of targeted immunity proposals being discussed in the Haass process.
"Why would someone who had been involved in something grievous and mortal risk exposure if, at this stage, they had never been arrested or charged. Why would they?" Mr Morrison asked. "This discussion doesn't seem to be happening in the real world."
Another former republican prisoner believes that a complete amnesty might make it possible for people to speak.
"I support John Larkin's proposal," said Anthony McIntyre, who persuaded IRA veterans to speak frankly to him for the Boston College archive, on condition that their testimonies would not be revealed till they were dead. However, parts of the archive have now been accessed by the PSNI investigating Troubles-related IRA murders and abductions.
He said other former IRA members "have since approached me and said they would have loved to do the same, had they had a safe way of telling the story, but were unwilling... without legal guarantees."