FORMER UUP leader Tom Elliott has clarified comments he made over the ‘real victims’ of the Troubles.
At a meeting in Cookstown last Friday night, the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA spoke out against money being used to open inquests into the deaths of those victims who, he claimed, were not killed by the IRA.
During the course of the meeting, he read out a number of names of fresh inquests which are to be held, including LVF victim Sean Brown, who was abducted and killed by the loyalist gang as he locked up a GAA club in Bellaghy.
Mr Elliott is reported to have said that the ‘real victims’ were those murdered by the IRA.
In the report from the meeting published in the Mid-Ulster Mail, Mr Elliott said: “I actually believe if we could get the people who are the real victims to band together in some way and come forward and say they want inquests into the murders of their loved ones, it would at least choke the system up ... and stop this from happening.”
Responding to scathing criticism from Mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone, Mr Elliott said he wanted to clarify the remarks he made at the meeting.
“At no stage did I suggest or infer that anyone killed in the Troubles, who was not murdered by the IRA, were ‘not real victims’,” he said.
“That would be a nonsense because victims in this society were created by a variety of groups and organisations, including the IRA, INLA, UDA, UVF, various other terrorist splinter groups and on occasions the security forces.”
Mr Elliott pointed to his party’s Dealing with the Past paper which, he said, highlighted concern “that the current mechanisms for dealing with the past are imperfect, incomplete and imbalanced and are serving to rewrite history, painting the state and its security force personnel as the villains”.
He said: “We referred to the upcoming legacy of coroner’s court inquests which we said run the risk of establishing a narrative of actions by security force personnel without a reciprocal narrative concerning terrorist motivation and activity, or any due attention to the security and political context of the time.”
Earlier, the SDLP’s Mr McGlone – who knows the family of Sean Brown – described Mr Elliott’s remarks as “abhorrent”.
He said: “The very fact that Tom Elliott is making a distinction and saying the only victims are those killed by the IRA is disgraceful in itself. These are families who are still grieving and who have questions to be answered so it is completely crass and insensitive.
“He has dishonoured the memory of over 3,000 men, women and children on all sides of our society whose lives were lost in the Troubles.”
Sinn Fein MLA Francis Molloy called on Mr Elliott’s party leader Mike Nesbitt to clarify his party’s position on victims.
“This is a disgraceful statement by Tom Elliott and the current UUP leader and former Victims Commissioner Mike Nesbitt needs to come out and clarify his party’s position on victims,” he said.
A spokesperson for the UUP said the clarification statement from Mr Elliott had addressed the issue.