Stormont backs exclusion of terrorists from victim definition (NewsLetter)

The Assembly yesterday voted to support a motion which calls for Northern Ireland’s legal definition of a victim to be changed to exclude terrorists.
In a surprise development, a motion by former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott which called for Northern Ireland to adopt the EU definition of a victim to exclude perpetrators, was passed without opposition.
Both nationalist parties — the SDLP and Sinn Fein — said prior to the debate that they would oppose the motion and had the ability to defeat it by demanding that it require cross-community support.
However, Mr Elliott’s motion — which called for the Province to adopt the EU definition of a victim as someone who has suffered harm caused by acts or omissions in violation of the criminal law of an EU member state — was last night carried by the Assembly unopposed by nationalist MLAs.
But, despite the victory for those who want to see a legal distinction made between perpetrators and their victims, yesterday’s motion will not change the law, although it could open the way for a private members’ bill to change the law.
An attempt by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson two years ago to change the law failed after the SDLP refused to support it.
Mr Elliott said he was pleased the motion had passed unopposed but that he was surprised at the “venom” from the SDLP and Sinn Fein speakers during the debate, as they spoke in opposition to the attempt to redefine the definition of a victim to exclude terrorists.
And Mr Elliott said that he would now be attempting to get the European Union — which has given hundreds of millions of pounds to the Province in ‘peace’ money — to adopt its own definition of what constitutes a victim.
“I would like to see at least the EU funders accept that definition of a victim when deciding on funding and I will be writing to the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) asking them to acknowledge that,” he told the News Letter.
Mr Elliott said that he was particularly surprised at the SDLP for opposing the motion, given that the party is so strongly pro-EU.
Foyle SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood claimed that the Ulster Unionist Party was being “narrow-minded”.
Mr Eastwood, who two weeks ago faced criticism for carrying the coffin of a former IRA terrorist at a funeral where shots were later fired by masked men, said: “The UUP’s insistence on promoting the EU definition of a victim is a very narrow-minded political ploy designed to try and eradicate the rights of hundreds of victims of the conflict here in the North.
The Troubles created a complex and nuanced network of victims – victims of paramilitary or state violence.
“To narrowly define victimhood as referring only to those whose lives were damaged by acts that were in contravention of national law is to fail to grasp the damage that was done in the name of law and order in the darkest days of the Troubles.”
But DUP MLA William Humphrey said that there was a clear distinction between those “affected by terrorism through no choice of their own” and those who “deliberately chose to engage in illegal activity”.
“It is vital that there is a distinction between victim and perpetrator,” he said.
He added: “Now is the time for the SDLP to come forward and tell the public where it actually stands. Is it on the side of victims or on the side of the perpetrators?”


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