DUP is urged to clarify its stance on victims’ commissioner

Victims and Survivors Commissioner Judith Thompson.  Photo: William Cherry/Presseye
Victims and Survivors Commissioner Judith Thompson. Photo: William Cherry/Presseye
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The DUP, Alliance and SDLP have been urged to clarify their views on the victims commissioner, Judith Thompson, whose position is up for renewal this month.

Innocent Victims United (IVU), an umbrella group for victims of terrorism, is one of a number of victim groups that called on Ms Thompson to quit after she issued advice on a Troubles pension that would make terrorists injured by their own hand eligible for payments.

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for IVU, said: “It is clear that the majority of groups who support innocent victims and survivors of terrorism do not have confidence or trust in the existing victims commissioner to advocate their needs.

“Against this backdrop how can there be justification for an extension of contract beyond 31st August 2019?

“We note that two political parties have supported this position — UUP and TUV. We now seek clarity from all the remaining main democratic political parties who claim to represent victims’ interests — whether that be the DUP, Alliance or SDLP.”

Mr Donaldson added: “We note the point that Mervyn Lewers, a seriously injured survivor, in an article in the News Letter referenced DUP comments following the commissioner’s pensions advice.

“When asked about her future the party responded that the commissioner ‘still had opportunity to do the right thing’. The commissioner has not changed her approach, she remains rooted to a fringe position.

“It is important for the party to state unambiguously its position concerning the commissioner and her suitability to continue in office. The SDLP and Alliance Party have said little to date on these issues and they too must speak up.”

Mr Donaldson added: “Political parties who claim to empathise with our constituency’s needs should also be concerned by the positions adopted over the last four years by the current commissioner; whether around the pensions issue, the inclusion of a perpetrator on the Victims Forum and the non disclosure of such information to other members, or the refusal to recognise that the majority of victims/survivors seek a change to the definition of victim.

“The commissioner has failed to advocate for policy change, as is within the remit and responsibilities of her office.”