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Let referendum decide who is a Troubles victim: Campaigner


Kenny Donaldson

Kenny Donaldson

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Pre

Kenny Donaldson

A public vote should be held to decide what it means to be a victim in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

Campaigners said there was a growing consensus that the current definition was not acceptable.

Innocent Victims United (IVU) - an umbrella body for victims groups - said it had gained broad support from the main Churches and the GAA.

Defining what constitutes a victim in Northern Ireland has been mired in controversy.

The current interpretation is set out in the Victims and Survivors (NI) Order 2006. It makes no distinction between paramilitaries who were killed or injured and other victims.

It defines a victim as:

  • Someone who has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of a conflict-related incident;
  • Someone who provides a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for a person who has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of a conflict-related incident;
  • Someone who has been bereaved as a result of a conflict-related incident.

However, IVU is firmly opposed to perpetrators of violence being considered victims. It has called for a public referendum on the issue. Spokesman Kenny Donaldson said: "We have confidence that society and basic morality defines what a victim is.

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"It was not the people who changed the definition, the people didn't even have a chance to express their view on the matter.

"The NI 2006 Order has had the consequence of changing the very narrative and cause of the Troubles, which was the political objective of those responsible for implementing the definition.

"It was a politically motivated decision taken to appease terrorism, its apologists and the associated agenda."

Mr Donaldson said each of the main Churches acknowledged that the current definition was morally indefensible and not sustainable.

He said there had been broad support from organisations including the GAA. "We expect the political parties, Churches, the Victims' Commission and other stakeholder organisations and individuals who have a role in dealing with the legacy of the Troubles to back our call for a public referendum.

"We cannot as a society continue to allow the political system to subvert the will of the people at the expense of those who have already endured harrowing loss and suffering to their lives."

Mr Donaldson said what was morally wrong would never be politically right. His comments have been backed by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

"We would support a change to the current definition so that it excludes perpetrators," he said.

"We do not believe that someone who has been engaged in terrorism should be defined as a victim in the same way as an innocent victim.

"We have long supported a change to the definition and put forward a Private Member's Bill in the Assembly, but it was blocked by nationalists."

The SDLP - which with Sinn Fein blocked the Bill in 2010 - said its position had not changed.

Deputy leader Dolores Kelly said: "I understand the emotion and difficulties, I really do. However, this was something that was settled in 2006."

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