Arlene Foster: ‘As we deal with the past we must focus on those who were behind 90% of Troubles killings’

The IRA massacre at the Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen in 1987 which killed 11 people who were standing in and around the area. Picture by Pacemaker

The IRA massacre at the Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen in 1987 which killed 11 people who were standing in and around the area. Picture by Pacemaker

Saturday was the 13th annual European Day of Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism, providing an opportunity once again for us all to remember the incredible loss and sacrifice of so many across our Province.

Thousands of civilians were targeted by terrorists, losing their lives or sustaining life-changing injuries.

The 
DUP Leader Arlene Foster during the DUP 2017 Assembly election manifesto launch at Stormont Hotel on Monday. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

The DUP Leader Arlene Foster during the DUP 2017 Assembly election manifesto launch at Stormont Hotel on Monday. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

We should also take this time to remember the many brave men and women, who through their service, defended our community in the darkest of times, fighting terrorism and protecting lives.

In that context it is particularly disappointing to see the totally unjustified campaign against those who served in our security services.

This cannot continue.

Ben Lowry analysis of this article here

Our objective is to secure a fair and proportionate approach to the past – one that rightly focuses on the terrorists who caused 90% of the deaths throughout the Troubles.

No one is above the law, but the approach by some of taking concessions, such as early release of prisoners, while wanting to ruthlessly pursue security forces is wrong.

That is why we are pursuing the concept of a statute of limitations for those who served.

The men and women who put on a uniform and went out, not to kill or maim, but to protect and defend should not now be persecuted unjustly.

Many are long retired and in ill health.

We all owe an incredible debt of gratitude to our security forces – we have the highest number per head of the population of those who have served their country in this courageous way.

Sadly there is a legacy of injury, loss and need within this group. This must be addressed.

That is why we need greater recognition of their needs and the urgent introduction of the Military Covenant in Northern Ireland.

This will allow additional help and support through the health service and our public services.

This is the very least that they deserve.

During the discussions on the legacy of the past we will be ensuring that access to justice will be at the heart of any new proposals.

There can be no amnesty. In addition, victims must get all the support they require.

The disproportionate, one-sided focus on the state must be stopped.

We will not allow the rewriting of the past by attempts to take the focus off those who perpetrated 90% of the deaths and injuries.

Victims group: Is HIU another sop to republicanism?

The current wrongful definition of victim, introduced during direct rule, needs to be changed.

It grieves me that this erroneous definition does not exclude perpetrators.

This is something that we will relentlessly pursue with the British government.

The Irish government also has obligations – they must step up and give full disclosure in all relevant cases.

This is something we have raised directly with them again this week and must be part of any proposed final agreement.

Our attempts to deal with the past do not mean in any way we are focused only on the past.

Dealing with the unresolved issues is necessary if we are to achieve our vision of a shared and better Northern Ireland for all – one where we have a strong local economy, good jobs for our young people and excellent public services.

That’s why we are focused on doing all that we can to agree a fair, proportionate and comprehensive set of arrangements on legacy issues.

I will never let victims, or their needs, be forgotten as we strive to chart a way forward and restore the government of Northern Ireland.

• Arlene Foster is DUP leader

Ben Lowry: Arlene Foster is showing empathy with concerns about how the past is depicted but the DUP leader gives no detail

Victims group: Is HIU another sop to republicanism?