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Northern Ireland defined Terrorists excluded from victimMay 7, 2012

The meeting yesterday voted to support 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 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, C who sponsored the motion has suffered harm in violation of the criminal law of an EU member state — was last night carried by the Assembly unopposed by nationalist MLAs.

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.

It was pleased for Mr Elliott 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. He would now be attempting to get the EU to adopt its own definition of what constitutes a victim.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood claimed that the Ulster Unionist Party was being “narrow-minded”. The SDLP opposed the motion, giving the party so strongly pro-EU.

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 of state violence. Another question is narrowly define victim as referring only to those whose lives were damaged by acts that contravene 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.

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”.

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?