The victims’ commissioner has said she “deeply regrets any hurt” caused by her absence from an annual victims event at Stormont on Monday.
For the past seven years the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism has been marked on March 11 at Stormont.
Commissioner Judith Thompson was invited but said she was unable to attend as she was publishing a report on the same date.
Mike Nesbitt, UUP MLA and former victims’ commissioner, noted that she had delivered the advice paper to the secretary of state in January and asked why she could not have delayed publication until the day after the annual Stormont event.
In a response to the News Letter, the commissioner said she “deeply regrets any hurt that has been caused by her inability to attend the event” and added that those commenting about the matter “may not know the full circumstances”.
The commission submitted the advice on legacy proposals in January and “as is customary, allowed a period for the minister to consider the contents,” she said.
“The commission had a long-standing plan for publication which was to have been accompanied by a launch sponsored by the NIO and held in the House of Commons.
“The announcement of the Brexit vote in Parliament meant that plans for the Westminster event changed at short notice. However, the planned publication and media launch proceeded on March 11 without further delay, ensuring that this issue remained on the political agenda.”
She attended the Stormont event last year and “fully expects to attend next year”. A proper apology was delivered in good time and “no slight was ever intended”.
She is “acutely aware of the differences of opinion” among victims and “genuinely endeavours to represent all views equally”. As a result she wants the proposed legacy institutions to be implemented “with the changes necessary” to meet their needs, she said.
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said: “Judith Thompson did not attend Stormont because the event doesn’t represent the full definition of the statutory definition of a victim, which states that everybody is equally a victim – including terrorists. Nobody at the event was connected to republican or loyalist paramilitaries.
“They should not have been at the event – and they weren’t – but she should have been.
“Liberals are taking control of the victims’ sector, people who never heard a gunshot or bomb in their life are increasingly telling victims what they need and don’t need and what they should and shouldn’t do.”