My Lords, I intend to be brief on this because I will keep before me what has been said in the debate on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hain. I recognise that much of what was said compares with what I hope to say.
The definition of a victim has been a matter of great angst in Northern Ireland since its inception. Consideration of government proposals in the past has been coloured by the dissatisfaction people feel over an unfair definition of a victim. This has been a running sore for some 13 years. We have met many individual victims and several groups representing victims’ organisations. The victim definition is repeatedly raised with us as their key issue.
We consider the 2006 definition of a victim and survivor to be unacceptable, unfair and downright insulting. In our view, there is a clear distinction in law between a terrorist perpetrator and their innocent victim. To equate the two is morally wrong and totally indefensible. We have previously tabled legislative proposals to change the definition of a victim, but to no avail at this stage. We believe the Government should bring forward plans now to change the definition of a victim so that there is a clear distinction between perpetrators and victims. In any civilised society, it cannot be right that victims and perpetrators are treated as equals. We believe that this could improve the existing climate and context regarding consideration of the past and legacy proposals.
The Secretary of State wrote in the foreword of the legacy consultation document:
“A Conservative Government will reject any attempts to rewrite the history of the past that seeks to justify or legitimise republican or loyalist terrorism or which seeks to displace responsibility from the people who perpetrated acts of terrorism”.
A perpetrator of an unlawful act cannot at the same time be a victim of the act they have perpetrated. Someone who pulled a trigger or planted a bomb should not be treated in the same manner as their innocent victims. This matter is fundamental to victims’ views. In our engagement with a number of victims’ organisations, we have been struck by extremely powerful testimony illustrating the depth and rawness of hurt and insult they feel at their loved ones being placed in the same category as terrorist perpetrators.
The DUP has a proud record on victims and legacy issues. In government, we quadrupled funding for victims. We have stood against a rewriting of our history and efforts to introduce an amnesty. Current arrangements for dealing with the past are utterly unacceptable. There is a clear imbalance, and continuation of the status quo will lead to further rewriting of the narrative of the Troubles. Innocent victims are not seeing progress on investigations into the murder of their loved ones. I beg to move.