A victim of one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles today calls on the DUP to state its position on the victims’ commissioner.
Aileen Quinton, whose mother Alberta was murdered in the 1987 IRA bomb in Enniskillen, joins the demand for clarity on the future of Judith Thompson, who is up for being reinstated in the victims post later this month.
Groups that represent victims of terror, the Ulster Unionist Party and Traditional Unionist Voice all want Ms Thompson to be replaced after she issued advice on a Troubles pension, that would include as eligible terrorists injured planting a bomb.
“Is giving her a free pass on her latest insult to decency just part of the pattern of giving in to PIRA as much as [the DUP] thinks that its voters will let them get away with?” asks Ms Quinton, in a letter in today’s News Letter (see link below).
“Does Emma Little Pengelly MP consider that enough time has passed for the commissioner to do the right thing or does such a time limit not expire until the twelfth of never?” Ms Quinton writes.
Meanwhile, Alliance and UUP have clashed after Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United called on the DUP, Alliance and SDLP to state their stance on the commissioner. Stephen Farry of Alliance expressed full support for Ms Thompson.
Alliance MLA Stephen Farry has been criticised for his ‘sneering and condescending’ comments in support of Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson.
UUP’s Doug Beattie made the remarks in reaction to several posts on social media by Mr Farry concerning Saturday’s News Letter story where Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (see link below) asked the DUP, Alliance and SDLP to clarify their views on Ms Thompson, whose position is up for renewal this month.
On Twitter, in reply to Saturday’s article quoting Mr Donaldson, Mr Farry posted: “Judith Thompson retains our full confidence as Victim Commissioner. We are not interested in any political hatchet job. Lining up political parties for or against her is destructive. And also at odds with public appointments system.”
Replying to Mr Beattie he said: “I am aware of what has been said by some victims groups. But politicians have a choice to lead and act responsibly or to stir the pot. You are doing the latter, and I think this is a dangerous road you are heading down.”
He added: “She has been objective & worked within the rules set by the political system. This is politically manufactured problem and if we end up with her head on a plate, precedent is set and any successor and the office becomes needlessly politicised. And we take one more step backwards.”
Following the exchange Mr Beattie said: “If the Alliance Party support the beleaguered victims’ commissioner and they see no issue in supporting the commissioner’s report that will allow perpetrators of terrorism, if injured by their own hand, an equivalent pension to the victims they created, that’s a matter for them.
“What I cannot accept is being described as attempting to ‘stir the pot’ or that supporting victims, who have real confidence issues with the commissioner, is creating a ‘politically manufactured problem’.
“These are sneering and condescending comments from the Alliance Party’s deputy leader that portray victims as a manipulated group incapable of thinking for themselves.”
He added: “The powers of the commissioner are quite clear. One of those statutory duties is ‘to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice affecting the interests of victims and survivors’.
“In failing to do this within her report in respect to Victims and Survivors Pension Arrangements (VASPA) the commissioner has lost the confidence of over 11,000 victims who lobbied her on this very issue and who were ignored.
“With the commissioner turning her back on some victims they reached out for support from politicians – the Ulster Unionist Party gave them that support. It is now up to others to explain why they feel these victims’ concerns should not be heard.”
In response, Mr Farry stated: “We are not going down the road of wrecking either the Victims Commission or Stormont House and leaving vacuums in their wake.
“The victims’ commissioner provides important services for victims across the political spectrum. To create a political litmus test for this or any future commissioner around the definition of a victim is going to be counter-productive, and indeed destructive to the future of an impartial commission.
“The definition of a victim is already heavily contested politically and across victims’ groups. All that we can and should expect is for the commissioner to operate within the confines of the law set through the democratic process. To ask the commissioner to make distinctions between victims is not particularly realistic. To accuse the commissioner of ignoring some victims is not accurate.”