NI parties Q&A: What is your definition of Troubles victim?

An armed and masked IRA man climbs aboard a bus, Londonderry
An armed and masked IRA man climbs aboard a bus, Londonderry

The largest victims’ umbrella group in Northern Ireland – Innocent Victims United – has quizzed parties about their stance on victims’ issues, and the News Letter publishes their answers below.

Q: What is your party’s position on the current definition of victim (which does not differentiate between paramilitary and non-paramilitary casualties, fatalities and survivors)? (N.I Order 2006) If you view it as unsustainable then how will you go about practically changing the definition?

DUP: The DUP position is that the current definition of a victim, brought in under direct rule, is wrong and needs to be changed. As part of the party’s ‘Northern Ireland Plan’ we are proposing that such a change excludes perpetrators. It is immoral that the current definition does not exclude perpetrators.

In the Northern Ireland Assembly Sinn Fein does not have the numbers to block a change to the definition. However, when we brought forward a fully drafted Private Member’s Bill it was blocked because, shamefully, both the Alliance and SDLP joined with Sinn Fein to veto it.

If the SDLP and Alliance change their stance we can change the definition in the Assembly.

The DUP has also sought to change this definition at Westminster through Private Members’ Bills and we will continue to try and achieve this – if there is a hung parliament we will have a unique opportunity to negotiate that UK-wide legislation will be brought forward at Westminster.

UUP: The 2006 definition is totally unsatisfactory. Any future definition must clearly distinguish between those injured by the actions of others and those injured by their own actions, between those acting lawfully and those acting unlawfully.

It is morally unjustifiable that those innocent people injured by the actions of terrorists should be placed in the same category as those injured while carrying out acts of terror.

It is unlikely that Westminster would legislate over the heads of the Northern Ireland Assembly on this matter. It is therefore for the SDLP to be persuaded of the moral imperative for a new unambiguous and fair definition to allow it to pass through the Assembly. Without SDLP support, there is currently no prospect of a change in the legislation. We continue to press the case.

TUV: TUV wants to see the perverse definition of victim – which equates the terrorist with innocent victims – changed. Those who accepted devolution before this issue was resolved must bear responsibility for the current situation.

Ukip: Ukip believes legislation needs to be changed to ensure that a distinction is drawn between those involved in terrorism and innocent victims of terrorism. The present form of words is clearly inadequate.

NI Conservatives: We believe that there is a clear distinction between innocent victims and perpetrators – just as our manifesto states that we will never accept equivalence between those who sought to defend democracy and those who attempted to destroy it.

This distinction is not reflected in the 2006 Order passed by the last Labour Government.

This is, however, now a devolved issue for Stormont and so far there has been no consensus on change. We will continue to work with and encourage the Executive parties to come up with a suitable alternative to the current definition.

SDLP: The party accepts the current provisions under the 2006 Order. As with all victims’ issues, we are prepared to discuss this matter with other parties, victims’ organisations, families and governments.

Alliance: The current definition, while not perfect, is workable. We do not accept that all victims are the same as there were different contexts to how victims were created. We do not wish to create barriers to accessing services. We regard a debate on the definition of the victim as the gateway to the consideration of other issues to be counter-productive.