The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson has launched a public consultation (pdf here) on his private member’s bill to change the definition of a victim (there is a web site link as well). The bill would seek to narrow the definition of a victim. Donaldson stated: “It is about how we deal with the past, and what we are not prepared to countenance is a rewriting of the Troubles where the perpetrators, whoever they are, who carried out acts of terrorism are placed on a par with the thousands of people they killed and maimed.
“I want to see the process moving on and a Northern Ireland that puts the past behind it but in seeking to deal with the past, it is important we clearly understand that there was wrongdoing and that wrongdoing is recognised.”
Sinn Fein and the SDLP have rejected the proposal with Martin McGuinness promising to stop the bill. Sinn Fein MLA Francie Molloy said:
“The current classification came about after years of consultation and painstaking campaigning by victims’ organisations with the support of Sinn Fein,
Given the universal view on this issue amongst those groups representing victims of British state violence I would fully expect the SDLP to join with us in blocking this offensive electioneering by the DUP.”
SDLP assembly member Alex Attwood said he was “totally unsupportive” of the plan.
“The feelings and circumstances of those who have lost relatives need to be remembered, including where family members were misguided, wrong or acting illegally,”
Relatives for Justice spokesperson (and Victims’ Forum member)Mark Thompson who was interviewed on Radio Ulster also rejected the proposals but seemed to imply that within the Victims’ Forum discussion of the definition of a victim could occur. However, as the Victims’ Commission pointed out: “The commission will facilitate discussion on the definition by the new victims and survivors forum later this month, but will remind forum members that the power to change the definition rests with our politicians.”
Jim Allister has criticised Donaldson’s strategy and, no matter how much Donaldson would like to change the definition, it is unclear how his proposals can have any likelihood of success. The only possible benefit would be that highlighting the unpopularity of the current definition of a victim with this exercise may help pressurise the government in its response to Eames Bradley. However, Donaldson must appreciate that his current plan’s stated aim is doomed to failure.