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?
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.
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?
We support the institutions proposed in the Stormont House Agreement to deal with legacy issues. The Conservative Secretary of State has made clear many times that these institutions will be independent but will have a responsibility to operate in a fair, balanced, accountable and proportionate manner. This will be enshrined in Westminster legislation. We will not be party to any re-write of history or anything that legitimises terrorism.
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?
This way in which the ICIR will operate is set out in the Stormont House Agreement. Further detail will be included in proposed legislation later this year. As stated above we will not be party to any re-write of history or anything that legitimises terrorism.
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?
The Conservatives are committed to implementing the Stormont House Agreement including the obligations it contains on disclosure and cooperation by the UK Government with the new structures set up on the past and will deliver legislation where this is needed. We expect the Irish Government to do the same.
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 can see a case for awarding a pension to victims who were severely physically injured as a result of the Troubles. We would like this to happen. As you know, the obstacle has always been the definition of the victim. We would not want to see taxpayers’ money spent on pensions for those injured at their own hands while involved in terrorism. The Stormont House Agreement commits the UK Government and the NI Parties to undertake further work to seek an acceptable way forward on the proposal for a pension for severely physically injured victims in Northern Ireland.
Q6. What mechanisms does your Party propose in having ‘On the Run Comfort letters’ rescinded?
Last September the Conservative Secretary of State set out very clearly and publicly in Parliament that the OTR scheme the current Government inherited from Labour is over. She unambiguously stated that nobody in receipt of an OTR letter should rely on it now or in the future and that if the evidence exists of involvement in terrorist offences they will be prosecuted in the normal way. Conservatives believe in the rule of law – which is why we opposed Labour’s Northern Ireland Offences Bill in 2005-6. We are opposed to amnesties.
Q7. What are your Party’s proposals on strengthening current legislation around the glorification of terrorism?
A Conservative Government will always keep anti-terrorist legislation under constant review. Our manifesto states that we will give the fullest possible support to the police in the fight against terrorism. Conservatives believe that all politically motivated violence in Northern Ireland was wrong and we will never accept any attempt to legitimise it. The Conservative Secretary of State said this at the time of the Castlederg parade in 2013 which she described as ‘deeply insensitive’ and urged Sinn Fein to call it off.
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?
Conservatives believe that just as the UK Government has shown that where the State has got thing wrong we are prepared to face up to and account for what we have done, it is the responsibility of everyone to face up to their part in the mistakes and tragedies of the past. That includes the Irish Government.
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?
Yes. Provision for an Oral History Archive and a factual historical timeline and statistical analysis of the Troubles is contained in the Stormont House Agreement.
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?
We have consistently stated that costly and open ended inquiries are not the right way to deal with legacy issues – and under the current UK Government none has been set up. Where the devolved Northern Ireland Attorney General, acting independently of government, grants coronial inquests into legacy killings these should be Article 2 compliant. Our manifesto states that in accordance with the Stormont House Agreement we will work to reform legacy inquests in a way that enables the UK Government to fulfil its international obligations.