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Troubles victims need practical help from 'contract'

By Liam Clarke

Innocent Victims United (IVU), a pressure group representing some victims of mainly republican violence, is making quite some progress with its hard-hitting victims contract.

IVU has shown muscle before. It was, for instance, an important part of the push that led the DUP to pull out of its agreement with Sinn Fein on the Maze/Long Kesh conflict transformation centre.

Now it has got the TUV, UUP and Ukip to sign up to its contract in its entirety (the DUP has accepted many aspects of it). The Alliance Party, SDLP, NI21, NI Conservatives and the Greens have accepted some aspects without signing. Only Sinn Fein has rejected it, although the PUP didn't respond.

Some parts would cause real difficulty in reaching agreement, or implementing it. For instance, there is a clause calling for no glorification and promotion of terrorism.

This would, IVU has explained, apply to many republican commemorations, as well as some loyalist bands and events which name-check dead paramilitaries.

This would present a major new, unfunded, challenge for the police. Yet it has been bought into by the DUP in a leaflet entitled Our Key Commitments to Innocent Victims of Terrorism, which pledges it to "enhance and strengthen... anti-glorification of terrorism laws" to cover events like a recent republican parade in Castlederg.

Other parts on which some parties will gag include a proposed list of victims with "victims/survivors of any criminal-based actions inflicted by individual members of the security forces" included only as an appendix.

The whole document is set to get a boost next week, when Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, is expected to visit Northern Ireland and sign it, throwing the weight of a major British party behind it.

The DUP will face pressure to follow suit and that could make post-election negotiations more fraught.

This will all stir up debate, but there are some aspects of its blueprint that should command a degree of cross-community support.

For instance, marking the European Day for Victims of Terrorism in Stormont each March could, if properly handled, be an inclusive event, which would focus attention on those who have suffered.

Demands for Peace IV funding from Europe for victims and survivors is something which could usefully be pursued by all our parties, as could help from the British and Irish governments.

Practical help is less contentious and may well have a greatest impact on the lives of victims and survivors of our conflict.

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