Definition of Victim at Heart of Injustice

Jim Allister made the following speech during yesterday’s debate in the Assembly:

“With the victim-makers at the top and heart of government in Northern Ireland, anyone who thinks that their innocent victims are going to get a fair deal is deluded, just as they will take no comfort from the platitudes of a bomber and of a killer who have spoken in the Chamber today. Right at the heart of this injustice for innocent victims is the pernicious definition of “victim” that rules in this land, that which obscenely equates perpetrator and victim-maker with those whom they make victims.

“So long as that is the definition in the law of the land, there will be no fairness, no justice, for innocent victims. Frankly, it is only innocent victims I care about. I have no brief for the victim-makers or for those who inflicted on themselves their injury: they got their just deserts. I do care, however, about their innocent victims, and unless and until we bring justice to the definition of a victim, which this motion and amendments do not even mention, we will go round in circles and deliver nothing for innocent victims.

“Yes, many pay lip service to the need to change the definition of a victim and to right that great wrong, but it is lip service. Take the DUP. It has had multiple opportunities — at St Andrews, at Hillsborough, at Stormont House, in the Fresh Start talks — to make the definition of a victim a red-line issue, but never once did it do so. Lip service was easy; doing something that might threaten their love and lust for power was far too hard an ask. So, we are in this vicious circle. Innocent victims continue to suffer the injustice of the definition that attends them.

“Under these proposals, that will be compounded through a body with a grand-sounding name, the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval. That is an odious suggestion. The rules that govern it will set the scene for a rewrite of the history of the Troubles. They proffer the victim-makers the opportunity to give, in secret and anonymously, their selective account of who they murdered and why they murdered them, and they can justify it. None of what they say needs to be corroborated; none of it can be tested; none of it can be used against them. Indeed, the very victims they made cannot be told who said what about their relative and why they were killed. What a perfect setting for the rewriting of history.

“That will then be tapped into by a further body, the Implementation and Reconciliation Group, which, at the end of the process, will take up the themes — you can guarantee that alleged collusion will be one of them — that they have been fed from this rewriting of history. Then innocent victims are supposed to applaud and think that they have been granted something wonderful. They have been granted something wholly negative, not positive, and will continue to be, unless and until the issue of definition is addressed.”

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