Northern Ireland

Donaldson: No DUP u-turn on victim definition

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the party remains clear in its opposition to the statutory definition of a victim
Image caption DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the party remains clear in its opposition to the statutory definition of a victim

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson has denied that the party has done a u-turn on its accepted definition of a victim.

On Friday, Denis Bradley, who co-chairs the Consultative Group on the Past, said the DUP had now accepted the statutory definition.

The 2006 Victims and Survivors Order makes no distinction between paramilitaries who were killed or injured and other victims.

The DUP have consistently opposed it on this basis.

However, in January, the first minister said she will implement welfare reforms which would favour victims of the Troubles, regardless of their involvement in paramilitary activity.

In doing so, Arlene Foster was accepting a scheme drawn up by a group led by benefits expert Prof Eileen Evason.

It suggests that people with conflict-related injuries who are deemed ineligible for the new personal independence payments should get extra points to help them qualify for help.

At the time, Mrs Foster expressed regret that some ex-paramilitaries could potentially benefit from the scheme.

Image caption Arlene Foster expressed regret that some ex-paramilitaries could potentially benefit from a welfare scheme which she intends to implement

Welcoming her acceptance of the scheme on BBC's Talkback programme, Dennis Bradley said: "That actually clears space... to implement pensions, compensate people and move forward.

"The DUP last week, having railed against [the statutory definition] for a long period of time, have now accepted that it's the only definition that's workable."

However, Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the DUP remains opposed to the 2006 definition.

"Dennis Bradley doesn't speak for the DUP," he said. "He can interpret things how he will, but our view is that the current definition is wrong."

Image caption Dennis Bradley said the first minister's acceptance of Prof Evason's propsals clears space to implement pensions, compensate people and move forward

In 2009, Mr Donaldson tabled a private members bill that would have ensured the perpetrators of violence during the Troubles were not defined as victims.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein vetoed that bill.

Mr Donaldson said the DUP is clear in its desire to change the definition. "Where we can, we will. Where we can't, we have to work with the current definition," he said.

"The DUP can't change the laws on their own - we have a system that requires consent.

"We have to make a balanced judgement - do we pull welfare reform crashing down again, do we manufacture another crisis at Stormont over a transitional arrangement that will last one year?

"Politics is about taking pragmatic decisions - it doesn't mean we have changed our principled objection to the definition of a victim," he said.

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