‘Fresh Start agreement an insult to victims’ - Allister

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness sign the copy of the document 'A Fresh Start - The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan'. Picture Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness sign the copy of the document 'A Fresh Start - The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan'. Picture Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.

The latest political agreement to stabilise Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive has a built-in “insult to victims,” Jim Allister has said.

On Tuesday, the DUP and Sinn Fein struck a deal with the Government that should lead to the implementation of welfare reform and the rate of corporation tax cut lowered to 12.5 per cent.

However, the TUV leader has described the ‘Fresh Start’ agreement as reaffirming an earlier “amnesty ideology” for convicted terrorists first drafted in 2007. The document referred to is the employers’ guidance on ‘recruiting people with conflict-related convictions’ which was drawn up by the OFMDFM.

A key principle states that conflict-related convictions of “politically motivated” ex-prisoners, for offences prior to the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, or their membership of any organisation, “should not generally be taken into account [in accessing employment, facilities, goods or services] provided that the act to which the conviction relates, or the membership, predates the Agreement.”

It goes on to say: “Only if the conviction, or membership, is materially relevant to the employment, facility, goods or service applied for, should this general rule not apply.”

Mr Allister said: “There has been much commentary on the failure of this week’s agreement to deliver anything for victims. What seems to have escaped unnoticed, however, is the fact that rather than it being a Fresh Start for victims it contains a fresh insult to victims.”

He added: “This amounts to special status and sanitising of pre-1998 terrorist convictions to the point where they are written off and the terrorist is treated as if he had never murdered or bombed or maimed. Of course, this is how terrorists are treated in our perverse government in Stormont, but now as a product of that and the agreement which its operatives have reached, they wish to extend the amnesty ideology to every job.”

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has branded this week’s political agreement as “anything but a ‘fresh start’,”

He said the deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein had failed to deal with the past, and had abdicated responsibility for welfare reform.

Speaking at a meeting of the Charlemont Branch of the UUP on Thursday night - ahead of Monday’s discussion on the document involving the party’s Lords and elected representatives - Mr Nicholson said: “The recent agreement may be called ‘A Fresh Start’ yet it looks like it will be anything but. If you look back to 1998 how many so called fresh starts has there been in Northern Ireland?

“This new deal is, I believe, worse than what has come before because it does not address legacy issues and by not facing up to tough decision making on finances, the DUP and Sinn Fein are effectively handing back powers to Westminster – a damning indictment on both parties.

He added: “It is clear to me that you will never resolve the differences between both communities in Northern Ireland if immediately after any deal Sinn Fein, like Oliver Twist, always ask for more. Westminster has once again promised more but will it be enough?”