Victims and terrorists: Should the Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone resign?


Should the Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone resign, because she wouldn't call the IRA or the UVF "terrorists"?

On the one hand, the TUV's Jim Allister thinks so. On the other, Ms Stone thinks not.

If that sounds like a fence sitting summary of the controversy, it's meant to, as this was exactly the kind of "equivocation" - in Jim Allister's words - that got the Victims Commissioner in hot water.

Mr Allister says that, given that the Terrorism Act defines the matter, the commissioner shouldn't have failed to answer the direct questions put to her by the Newsletter's Sam McBride.

Ms Stone counters that she's striving for neutrality, as she tries to fulfil her remit to represent all victims and survivors.

No consensus

For clarification, the 2000 Act defines terrorism as serious violence to people or damage to property carried out in a way in which "the use or threat is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause".

Schedule 2 of the Act also includes a list of proscribed organisations, which includes the IRA, the UVF and the UFF.

The victims commissioner isn't the first and won't be the last to have problems with the definitions of "terrorists and "freedom fighters".

The BBC's Editorial Guidelines, for example, note that "there is no agreed consensus on what constitutes a terrorist or terrorist act. The use of the word will frequently involve a value judgement.

"As such, we should not change the word "terrorist" when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves. This should not mean that we avoid conveying the reality and horror of a particular act; rather we should consider how our use of language will affect our reputation for objective journalism."


The dilemma for Kathryn Stone is that, in seeking to straddle the gap between different groups of victims which take completely contrasting views, she risks representing none of them.

She wants to concentrate on the business of delivering practical services to people suffering from trauma or bereavement, although her critics may wonder if that's not the job of the OFMDFM's Victims and Survivor Service.

Interestingly, Ann Travers - who made common cause with Jim Allister over his Special Advisers Bill - this time came out firmly in support of Ms Stone on the BBC's Nolan show.

Here's a suggestion - why not appoint more than one commissioner so they could then each reflect the different perspectives of different victims?

Oh yes, that was what Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness did, appointments which prompted widespread criticism from those who regarded it as a wasteful use of public resources.

Mark Devenport Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    This is not about one side or the other it’s about an official who doesn't appear to recognise any terrorists on either side. If she had just followed what was laid down in the Act this would never had made the news. After all she should be about the "victims" not her own perception of neutrality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    As they are defined already by the act I don't understand what her problem is with this. I do however have an issue with the fact that if she has issues with defining who the perpetrators are or what how will she know who the victims are. This surely makes her position untenable, not from the point of neutrality but rather from the point of not representing the victims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Chris - I don't care if she can't recognise her own house after a good night out. Is she caring? Does she provide comfort to those people out there who have had the lives of their loved ones ripped away from them?

    Sure it's just easier to castigate the woman on the basis of a print interview.

    You're better than that, I hope.

    Jim Allister ain't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The litany of death, maiming and injury perpetrated by paramilitaries speaks for itself. It is fact. Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries are guilty of some of the worst serial human rights abuses of the last 40 years,often against their own communities.Parity of suffering? The real victims know who they are and they know their abusers. Its a pity HRC and Victims Commissioner can't be as honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Allister needs to reset his own moral compass. Quite a few photographs doing the rounds of him standing shoulder to shoulder with UDA and UVF men at Twadell.


Comments 5 of 8



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