NIO ‘passing the buck’ on definition of victim

UUP leader Robin Swann
UUP leader Robin Swann
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The NI Office has been accused of “passing the buck” over whether the statutory definition of a victim should be changed.

On Monday, MPs are to debate a report issued by the secretary of state, which examines whether the definition of a victim “should be revised to apply only to a person who is injured or affected wholly through the actions of another person”.

UUP leader Robin Swann

UUP leader Robin Swann

There have been calls from the DUP and others for the redefinition of victims of terrorism to exclude perpetrators.

The report states that there is “no political consensus” on this “sensitive and emotive” issue.

As a result, it says the position of the government is that in order to make “meaningful progress”, the work would be “best taken forward by a newly restored Executive”.

It further states: “In the absence of an Executive it is for the Northern Ireland parties supported by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to reach cross-party agreement on whether the definition should be changed and, if so, how.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann described the report as “pathetic” and said it “should be a cause of great concern”.

The North Antrim MLA added: “The government had a chance to seriously address the issue of differentiating between terrorists and their victims and they have singularly failed to do it.

“Given that the report ‘is based on information provided by the Northern Ireland Office’ we should hardly be surprised, because the current NIO leadership has been a bastion of weakness and ineptitude when it comes to defending the interests of Northern Ireland and its people, preferring instead to adopt a position of neutrality between terrorists and the terrorised.

“This is about right and wrong and it is disgraceful and shameful for the NIO to try and pass the buck to local political parties and a newly formed Executive at some point in the future.”

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the News Letter that his party would be challenging the report during Monday’s debate in the Commons.

He added: “We are not happy with conclusions that the NIO has reached.

“We will be pressing the government to bring forward legislation to give a UK-wide definition of a victim which clearly in law differentiates in law between terrorists and innocent victims.”