Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie rejects 'stirring pot' claim over support for victims

Speaking out: Doug Beattie
Speaking out: Doug Beattie
Stephen Farry
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

An Ulster Unionist has his back after Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry accused Doug Beattie of "stirring the pot" and creating a "politically manufactured problem" over the Victims' Commissioner.

Ms Thompson angered innocent victims of terrorism when she reiterated her support for a pension for all those severely injured during the Troubles, including former paramilitaries who were injured while carrying out attacks.

A row broke out on Saturday after Alliance MLA Stephen Farry tweeted that Ms Thompson retained the full confidence of his party while responding to an article in the Newsletter where victims' groups had called for parties to clarify their position on the commissioner.

After being pressed by UUP justice spokesman Doug Beattie about whether Ms Thompson has lost the support of innocent victims, Mr Farry accused Mr Beattie off "stirring the pot" and creating a "politically manufactured problem".

Following the row, Mr Beattie said: “If the Alliance Party support the beleaguered Victims' Commissioner and they see no issue in supporting the Commissioner’s report that will allow perpetrators of terrorism, if injured by their own hand, an equivalent pension to the victims they created, that's a matter for them.

“What I cannot accept is being described as attempting to ‘stir the pot’ or that supporting victims, who have real confidence issues with the Commissioner, is creating a ‘politically manufactured problem’. These are sneering and condescending comments from the Alliance Party`s Deputy Leader, Stephen Farry MLA, that portray victims as a manipulated group incapable of thinking for themselves."

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Stephen Farry

Mr Beattie said the commissioner has lost the confidence of more than 11,000 victims who had lobbied her about her definition of a victim.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Farry said: "We are not going down the road of wrecking either the Victims' Commission or Stormont House and leaving vacuums in their wake.

“The Victims' Commissioner provides important services for victims across the political spectrum. To create a political litmus test for this or any future commissioner around the definition of a victim is going to be counter-productive, and indeed destructive to the future of an impartial commission."

The Alliance deputy leader said the definition of a victim is "heavily contested" both politically and across victims' group.

"To ask the commissioner to make distinctions between victims is not particularly realistic. To accuse the commissioner of ignoring some victims is not accurate," he added.

“If that definition is changed by either Parliament or the NI Assembly then that of course creates a new context."

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Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson

Mr Farry said the attack on the commissioner by the UUP is part of a "wider aim to wreck the Stormont House Agreement".

"Alliance believes that it [Stormont House Agreement] represents the only viable way forward. Where there are concerns with the detailed proposals, these can be fixed," Mr Farry said.

“But if Northern Ireland ends up losing Stormont House, then the current inadequate and ineffective status quo will continue and the next set proposals that will likely come along for legacy will no longer contain any investigatory function – something that many victims groups are seeking.

“It is important to show leadership, realism and responsibility about the real choices and alternatives that are available in relation to legacy matters.”

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