DUP presses to exclude terrorists from victim definition

Lagan Valley MP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has apparently unveiled his party's key positions on the legacy proposals

The DUP is to address widespread concerns raised in the current legacy consultation by pressing for a redefinition of victims of terrorism at Westminster which would exclude perpetrators.

Apparently declaring its stance on a range of legacy issues after months of feedback from victims, the party also said it expects government to bring forward an amended statute of limitations to protect veterans and is reviewing measures which would appear to address concerns about terror groups rewriting history.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was speaking to the News Letter after the party hosted a dinner for a key mover in government on legacy in Enniskillen on Friday - Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The DUP has engaged widely with victims and will soon submit a full response to the current government legacy consultation, he said.

Innocent victims have had to endure the early release of - and comfort letters for - terrorists and “proper investigation of crimes is vital for victims to obtain some form of closure”. It is “completely unacceptable” that they are the only group currently seeing no real progress in investigations, he said.

The 2006 statutory definition of a victim, which the DUP previously tried to change, is “indefensible” in that perpetrators “should not be put in the same category as those they set out to murder”.

He added: “The Government should bring forward plans now for a new UK-wide definition of a victim with a clear distinction between perpetrator and victim. We believe this could improve the existing climate and context and offer the best prospect of new legacy bodies proving successful.”

The DUP has also been discussing with government how to protect veterans who have previously been investigated for shootings which were usually “entirely lawful”.

Where no evidence of wrong doing was found, it is unjustified for them to be subject to “a witch-hunt” in their latter years.

“These discussions are ongoing and we expect the Government to bring forward proposals that will address this issue and will cover all operational deployments such as NI, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Mr Donaldson said that in dealing with leagcy, setting terrorist campaigns in context is essential. “One way to assist in this could be through the Government taking forward the development of an authoritative, evidence-based account of the period.” The DUP has been working on this and will consult more widely, he added.

The Cabinet minister, who brokered the Tory confidence and supply deal with the DUP, attended a dinner with leading party members on Friday night in Enniskillen, where legacy issues were among matters under discussion.

Mr Williamson attended the Killyhevlin Hotel along with party leader Arlene Foster and MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Gavin Robinson.

His visit comes only days after Tory peers gave a very public display of non-support for the government’s current proposals on dealing with the past in the House of Lords. They almost all articulated a new twist on an old proposal; a statue of limitations against prosecuting former security force personnel - so long as they have previously been subject to proper investigations for any alleged offence. The call was echoed by DUP peer Lord Browne.

Tory peer Viscount Hailsham went so far as to say he would rebel against the party whip if it tried to make him vote differently on such a motion.

In July Mr Williamson proposed a universal Troubles amnesty, drawing fire from the UUP, but no apparent DUP response. Yesterday he met cadets and reserve forces members at RAF Aldergrove.

See also: Ex-UDR man’s submission to government legacy consultation

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