Terror victims’ questions - SDLP response

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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 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.

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?

(a)The SDLP has long argued for a comprehensive ethical process for addressing the Past. Measured against this standard, the party believes that Stormont House is less than Haass O’Sullivan which was itself less than Eames Bradley.

The HIU is a model that the SDLP endorses, if it is legislated, operated and funded fully and properly.

(b)To ensure it is established quickly. However, the SDLP has made it clear that in relation to any aspect of Stormont House on the Past, we shall table amendments where necessary to ensure the best victims – centred approach and law.

(c) To ensure best compliance with Article 2 requirements and build confidence, an independent investigation approach is best.

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 is still being determined. The SDLP approach is that where victims can seek information, robust mechanisms are needed to be able to access information. Any approach must have the ability to access information from all sources, the law must enable this to happen and no person can hide behind the false argument that as any organisation no longer exists there is no way of verifying information.

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 question of time limits requires clarification). Bringing forward legislation in parallel would build confidence.

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?

The party strongly supports the principle. We would wish to discuss all potential mechanisms to agree on eligibility. The scheme should be based on legislation.

Q6. What mechanisms does your Party propose in having ‘On the Run Comfort letters’ rescinded?

The PSNI are currently reviewing the On The Run letters. This process should be advanced and concluded as quickly as possible. In any case, the On The Run letters cannot impede prosecution, where sufficient evidence exists.

Q7. What are your Party’s proposals on strengthening current legislation around the glorification of terrorism?

SDLP agrees in principle – would look at proposals to put in statute. This should be part of any discussion on parades, TBUC and related proposals or otherwise.

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?

The requirements for dealing with the Past is that those with knowledge and responsibility in state organisations and terror groups commit to the truth accountability and justice in relation to the Past. The absence of this, evasion or ambiguity, will undermine the needs of victims and survivors.

The Irish Government demonstrated with Smithwick, its endorsement of Haass O’Sullivan and the Taoiseach’s recent commitment to ‘full disclosure’ that it is prepared to measure up to its responsibilities. Others – including the terror groups – are failing.

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?

There are competing narratives around our history and conflict. It is important that the different narratives, perspectives and experiences are accounted for and given expression

The SDLP believes that the narratives of, first, victims and survivors and then also civilians, communities, individuals, members of state agencies, in other organisations, the respective governments and so many others should be heard.

In supporting this approach, the SDLP does not agree that the different and competing narratives are equal and valid. Those in the terror groups and state agencies that used violence have a narrative, but that narrative is not equal and as valid as others.

The current proposal is an evidence based historical timeline, which the SDLP believe can incorporate external source material.

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?

All inquests - be it in relation to acts of terror or acts of state violence - have to be Article 2 complaint. This is essential so that the victims and survivors receive their full entitlements under the law and Article 2 requirements. This should benefit all victims equally.