Victims’ Commissioner Kathryn Stone’s inability to say whether the IRA and UVF were terrorists renders her unfit for office, TUV leader Jim Allister has said as victims of terrorism last night expressed dismay at her words.
In an interview with the News Letter published yesterday, Ms Stone refused to say whether the illegal organisations responsible for most deaths during the Troubles were terrorist groups.
The commissioner, who in her own words is “a voice for victims”, also declined to give a view on the Maze peace centre, the Special Advisers Bill and the Eames-Bradley report – all issues about which many of the IRA’s victims feel strongly.
Mr Allister said: “Kathryn Stone’s comments in today’s News Letter confirm what I have suspected for some time – that she is supremely unfit to represent the needs and interests of innocent victims.
“For her to refuse to say whether the IRA – which butchered almost 1,700 people – or the UVF, which slaughtered almost 400 people, were terrorists is completely unacceptable and reveals her total inability to stand up for innocent victims.
“This is something which I have noticed in the past when she failed to come out in support of Ann’s Law which received support right across the groups representing the victims of terrorism.”
Although Ms Stone would not give an opinion on the Eames-Bradley report, she spoke warmly of its authors and said she would be surprised if it was not revisited in the Haass talks.
Mr Allister said those comments “will dismay many innocent victims who campaigned vigorously to see them binned”.
He added: “Now we all know that she is totally unfit for her job. She should go and go now. If she doesn’t, she should be removed by co-First Minister Robinson.”
DUP councillor Sammy Brush, who survived an attempt on his life by the IRA as he delivered mail in 1981, said he was dismayed by the comments.
The Dungannon councillor said he found it “shocking that we have a Victims’ Commissioner who appears not to know right from wrong or the difference between victims and terrorists”.
He added: “How can we have any confidence in the Victims and Survivors Service if the person at the top appears to treat victims of terrorism and the terrorists equally?”
Innocent Victims United (IVU), which says it represents 8,000 victims of terrorism, said international law confirms that the IRA, UVF and other proscribed organisations were terrorist.
The group said that it had a “good personal relationship” with the commissioner but added: “We can only but determine that she has taken leave of her senses in feeling unable or unwilling to describe those who butchered their fellow citizens – Protestant, Roman Catholic and Dissenter – as ‘terrorists’.
“The role of the Victims’ Commissioner’s office is to offer a ‘voice for victims’ but the voice that victims heard through the interview published yesterday is not a voice that represents them.”
He added: “The fundamental question at stake is this: is the Victims’ Commissioner’s Office offering an ‘independent voice for victims free from the political policy narrative of the present incumbents of OFMDFM or not?
“Could you imagine the outcry if the Home Secretary or a PSNI commander in response to the question, are women who wear short skirts and tight tops asking to be raped, were to reply: ‘I know there are some people who believe absolutely that they were; there are others who believe absolutely that they weren’t’?”