The UUP’s leading legacy spokesman has said the DUP cannot “continue to hide” from “fundamental” flaws running through the government’s proposals for dealing with the past, as a consultation into the plans yesterday drew to a close.
Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie said the DUP had “championed” the deal brokered at Stormont House – including the creation of a new investigative body with police powers – but is now trying to “put some distance” between the party and Northern Ireland Office (NIO) draft legislation on legacy issues.
Previous comments from DUP leader Arlene Foster are “significant” as they stand “completely at odds” with what Mrs Foster has said more recently on the issues, he added.
“She needs to state clearly where the DUP stand on support for the Historical Investigations Unit, and the legacy proposals in their entirety,” Mr Beattie said.
“If as they claim that ‘all draft legislation will only be introduced... if it is agreed with the DUP’ why on earth are we and others looking at draft legislation which has rightly been described by the Police Federation of Northern Ireland as a ‘monstrous circus’.
“When you also consider that the DUP claimed in September 2015 that ‘there is no proposal for an independent police force’, it calls into question their strategic direction given that the HIU will actually be a parallel police force with an all-powerful director in charge, operationally accountable to no-one.”
The NIO’s consultation process to address the legacy of the Troubles was launched in May and had been due to conclude on September 10, before the deadline was extended to yesterday.
In yesterday’s News Letter, Police Federation NI chairman Mark Lindsay emphasised that his organisation was totally opposed to the “ludicrous process” which, he said, attempts to equate terrorists with police officers.
The proposals will fail to deliver closure to families, who will be given false hope that by blaming police officers they will get closure or convictions, he said.
Doug Beattie said: “The Ulster Unionist Party has been absolutely clear – this is a scandal which must be stopped and the proposals scrapped.
“The DUP can’t continue to hide on these issues. Changing the definition of a victim, although welcome, is not enough. It wouldn’t address the fundamental, structural flaws with the legacy proposals and the draft legislation which the DUP claimed that they have a veto over.”
However a DUP spokeswoman responded that the “immoral definition of a victim” first appeared under the watch of the UUP.
“It was under UUP stewardship the current immoral definition of a victim was first used,” she said. “It was under a UUP agreement that the prison doors were opened and murderous victim makers were released. It was under UUP stewardship that the RUC dismantled.
“The DUP has a proud record of delivering for victims and support groups. Indeed Doug Beattie would do well to remember Mrs Foster and her family felt terrorism directly.”
She added: “We will oppose any rewriting of the past and ensure victims always have access to justice. We encourage people to go to www.mydup.com and read our document – there is little to indicate that Mr Beattie has.”
However UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon also challenged the DUP to explain why it agreed “such horrendously dangerous approaches” in the Stormont House Agreement on which the proposals are based. “Merely changing the definition of a victim simply won’t cut it,” he added.