Former victims’ commissioner Mike Nesbitt has said that he is “shocked” by his successor’s refusal to state whether the IRA and UVF were terrorists.
The Ulster Unionist leader said that Kathryn Stone’s comments – in an interview with the News Letter published on Wednesday – brought into question whether she was fulfilling the job for which she was being paid.
Mr Nesbitt, who was one of four commissioners, resigned in 2010 to join the UUP. Last year Ms Stone was appointed by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to act as a single commissioner.
Mr Nesbitt told the News Letter: “As a former victims’ commissioner I am highly aware of the sensitive nature of her position.
“But frankly, if her aim is to avoid offence by refusing to name the obvious, she will fail in her statutory duties, chief among which is to ‘promote the interests of victims and survivors’.
“Ninety per cent of all Troubles-related deaths were the responsibility of republican and loyalist terrorists. The IRA alone account for 60 per cent of the total.
“Given that the ‘no warning’ bomb was the IRA’s weapon of choice, we can safely assume more than 60 per cent of the living injured were made victims and survivors by the Provisional IRA. Ms Stone cannot imagine she is promoting the interests of those victims with this nonsensical stance.”
Mr Nesbitt said that Ms Stone’s comments also raised “key questions”, adding: “If not terrorists, does she think they were criminals? If so, that will anger a significant section of her stakeholders. If not, the logic of her position is that those who did serve time were falsely imprisoned. That is frankly ludicrous.
“I would also challenge Ms Stone to state whether she believes the murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, police officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr and of prison officer David Black were acts of terrorism or not.
“The News Letter is to be commended for identifying a significant fault line within the Commission for Victims and Survivors. The Ulster Unionist Party will not be found wanting in challenging the commissioner on this fundamental point. There can be no rewriting of history.”
However, John Loughran from north Belfast defended the commissioner. Mr Loughran, whose uncle was killed by the Army in 1973 in the New Lodge area, is a member of the Victims’ Forum, which advises the commissioner.
He said that Ms Stone had “brought a renewed focus and dedication to the role of serving the needs of all victims”, adding that she represented “all victims of the conflict”.