Belfast Telegraph

Foster demands new definition of victim to exclude terrorists

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster
Michelle O'Neill
Karen Bradley

By Gareth Cross and David Young

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called for a clear distinction to be made between a "terrorist perpetrator and their innocent victims" after new legacy proposals were announced.

Mrs Foster was speaking after she and DUP MEP Diane Dodds met Secretary of State Karen Bradley yesterday morning.

It was announced this week that the Department of Justice would release £55m to fund a unit to speed up the process of hearing inquests into 93 Troubles deaths

The DUP leader said that to fully tackle the legacy issues there was a need to change the way a victim is defined across the UK.

She said that she had urged Secretary of State Karen Bradley to address the issue.

"The Victims Strategy published in 2001 by the then OFMDFM used a victim definition that made no distinction between innocent victim and terrorist.

"This definition was then placed in law in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. The DUP opposed this," Mrs Foster said.

"The 2006 definition of a victim and survivor is indefensible. There is a clear distinction in law between a terrorist perpetrator and their innocent victim.

"To equate the two is morally indefensible. A perpetrator of an unlawful act cannot at the same time be a victim of the act they have perpetrated."

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said that she opposed the Good Friday Agreement due to the way "victims were ignored and terrorist prisoners were placated".

A number of prisoners convicted of Troubles-related crimes were released under the terms of the Agreement.

"Innocent victims universally oppose the current definition of a victim and place it as a top priority to change.

"It is an incredible hurt and insult to victims' families for their loved one to be placed in the same category as terrorist perpetrators," Mrs Foster said.

"The Government should bring forward plans now for a new UK-wide definition of a victim with a clear distinction between perpetrator and victim.

"We believe this could improve the existing climate and context and offer the best prospect of new legacy bodies proving successful."

Also meeting the Secretary of State yesterday was Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill.

Mrs O'Neill told Mrs Bradley that the continued absence of the Assembly and Executive at Stormont is "untenable" and cannot continue.

"I am fully committed to Sinn Fein playing our full part in any serious and meaningful talks process which remove obstacles to proper power-sharing, deliver a successful outcome and restore the Assembly.

"However, we have yet to see Karen Bradley prioritise such a process, and I have told her it is time she did," the Mid Ulster MLA said after her meeting with the Secretary of State.

Mrs O'Neill said that the lack of a local forum helps the Conservative Party and its DUP allies in pursuing their commitment to Brexit. "It therefore appears to us that neither the British Government nor the DUP want an Assembly and Executive at this time, which would impede their Brexit ambitions," she said.

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