An overhaul of legacy is needed, not just a new approach to the definition of a victim

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Emma Little Pengelly’s statement yesterday did not explicitly state a DUP view on Judith Thompson.

But it seems clear the party has lost faith in the victim commissioner, after victims groups and unionists took to these pages to urge her to quit.

Ms Thompson’s advice on granting a pension to terrorists was the final straw. There had been other major blunders, such as missing this year’s European Victims of Terrorism Day annual event at Stormont and the Jackie Nicholl saga.

Mr Nicholl, whose infant son was murdered by an IRA bomb, found out (after an anonymous tip off) that he had been on the Victims’ Forum alongside an unapologetic former bomber. As Mr Nicholl poignantly put it, he responded to his grief by working hard as a union representative for people across the community, rather than turning to violence. Then, to his horror, he found out about the ex bomber.

Outside this newspaper there was barely a squeak about that episode. It illustrated a moral corruption at the heart of London’s weak approach to the legacy of terror. In fairness to Ms Thompson, she was not the author of that moral corruption, which long predated her tenure. The neutral definition of a victim was introduced when Tony Blair was prime minister (it would be good to hear what Mr Blair, who approved secret reassurance for On The Run terrorists thinks about the fact that soldiers face murder trials but no terror leaders do).

While Ms Thompson was rightly neutral between different categories of victim, groups such as Innocent Victims United felt she never showed an understanding of the ratio of victims (victims of republicans are by far largest in number).

But the question of the victim commissioner and definition of a victim are only part of the reform needed on legacy. The UK must spell out how the many legacy inquests (Ballymurphy is now a major, long-running inquiry) will be balanced so that terror gets the same scrutiny. It cannot await approval for such balancing from the IRA or an Irish government that has tried to embarrass it on legacy in Europe.