Terror victims and survivors umbrella group Innocent Victims United posed ten questions to all political parties in the general election in Northern Ireland;-
Q1. What is your Party’s position on the current definition of victim? (N.I Order 2006) If you view it as unsustainable then how will you go about practically changing the definition?
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 members 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.
Q2(a) What is your Party’s position on the proposed Historical Investigations Unit? (b) Why are the powers for the HIU being devised at Westminster? (c) Do you believe an independent Police Force should investigate legacy killings? If so, why?
The DUP’s key objective on the issue of dealing with the past was to ensure the families of those victims of paramilitary violence and terrorism would have the best possible chance of justice. Therefore we supported a new enhanced “HET” unit that would have full investigative powers and will have sufficient funding to complete all their investigations into the criminal actions of terrorists. The HIU is the best way to achieve this.
There is a significant amount of legislation to be drafted, therefore we are using Westminster to support this work – all draft legislation will only be introduced both in the Assembly or at Westminster if it is agreed by the DUP. That is the terms of agreement for Westminster drafting. There is no proposal for an independent Police Force.
Q3. In the light of the Boston Tapes saga and recent Court cases, how will The Information Commission for Information Retrieval model work in providing information for victims of terrorism?
The Independent Commission for Information Retrieval can only examine an issue with the consent of the victim, or their next of kin in the case of a murder. The Commission is a confidential body with the purpose of providing facts at the request of the victim. When a victim requests information, it is envisaged the Commission would seek to obtain that information on their behalf if it is possible. In order to ensure any on-going investigation or case is not prejudiced in any way and that perpetrators can still be brought before the courts and convicted, the information is kept confidential to the victim and inadmissible in legal proceedings. We also ensured that there is no amnesty whatsoever to the perpetrator, even if they cooperate fully with the Commission.
Q4. Does your Party support parallel binding legislation being brought forward by the UK and R.O.I State’s simultaneously which insists on equal levels of disclosure, time limits etc?
Yes, the DUP fought for and achieved a commitment by ROI to bring forward legislation to ensure full disclosure in the same way as the UK Government.
Q5. What is your Party’s position on the proposed Pension for the Seriously Injured? Who should be eligible and how would your Party propose to see the Scheme introduced in legislation?
We brought forward the idea of a Pension for the Seriously Injured, but only for innocent victims. Those who should be excluded include perpetrators who were wholly or partly injured by reason of their own action as well as those for whom there was sufficient grounds to exclude for terrorist activity.
This would mean that even if a person was not partly or wholly responsible for the severe physical injury, they would still be excluded if they had a terrorism related or criminal conviction relating to the troubles.
We will not be supporting any pension that would benefit terrorists.
Q6. What mechanisms does your Party propose in having ‘On the Run Comfort letters’ rescinded?
Everything must be done to ensure that the letters are fully rescinded, including the introduction of legislation if this is required.
Q7. What are your Party’s proposals on strengthening current legislation around the glorification of terrorism?
The DUP supports strengthening legislation in regards to the glorification of terrorism. Recent events in Lurgan and Sinn Fein’s glorification of terrorism in Castlederg demonstrate the need for more robust legislation. In particular, we believe that the Government needs to review the 2006 Terrorism Act, specifically in relation to the 20 year time limit rule in relation to the glorification of terrorism.
Q8. As a prerequisite in dealing with ‘The Past,’ should the R.O.I State be first required to acknowledge the failures it made around issues of security and extradition as well as recognise its’ role in the initial formation of the IRA?
It is already shameful that so many families who are victims of terrorism have not yet had justice; this must not be delayed any longer. It is important to move forward to ensure a fully funded and effective investigation unit to seek justice for victims of terrorism as soon as possible along with enhanced support for victims and survivors. Access to justice and victims support is not something the DUP would use as a “bargaining chip” to be delayed until something else happens.
However, we have also made it clear the ROI has failed on security and extradition and in its historic role in relation to the IRA and this must be acknowledged.
Q9. Does your Party support a single evidence-based historical timeline of ‘The Troubles’ or an historical timeline which also incorporates external source material eg storytelling/personal contributions and accounts?
These are both elements contained within the Stormont House Agreement and it is likely that one will complement the other. It is important to have an historical timeline and facts, particularly as a number of organisations including Sinn Fein attempt to lie and spin about the past in order to support their inaccurate and untrue narrative. It is important that they are separate but linked.
Q10. Does your Party support Article 2 Inquests in relation to legacy killings carried out over ‘The Troubles?’ If so, how do you propose that victims of terrorism will benefit?
The United Kingdom, as the state party under the European Convention of Human Rights has an obligation to carry out article 2 compliant inquests in relation to certain types of deaths. They are an obligation that needs to be dealt with. However, the Inquest system also deals with some cases of victims of terrorism such as the Kingsmills case that is due to commence shortly. Victims of terrorism have made representations to the DUP to ensure the legacy process is adequately funded and that it can continue to examine legacy cases.