An Alliance Party delegation has met with Sinn Fein representatives, to discuss the content of the IRA’s statement to end their armed campaign. The issue of victims and those exiled by the IRA was specifically raised, as well as the need for unionists to engage with the process.
Eileen Bell MLA, Alliance Party Spokesperson on Victims and Survivors, said:
“On the back of Alliance’s cautious welcome of the significant statement by the IRA, we wish to ensure that the concerns of victims and the plight of those exiled by all paramilitaries is addressed. We have asked for the Sinn Fein leadership for their endorsement to call for the IRA to remove its threat to those they have expelled from Northern Ireland, as well as their families and relatives.
“This is a particularly important issue not only for Alliance, but wider society. It is just not right or proper for the British Government to grant any form of amnesty to ‘on the runs’, while not using the opportunity to address the other side of the situation – those still living in fear of, and under threat from, the IRA.
“Indeed, the only acceptable way for ‘on the runs’ to be returned is through the rule of law. This must be done via a judicial process, however adapted, so that those wanted for a crime have that matter addressed through the law, while those who are not wanted by the police can return with the clear knowledge of all that they are without suspicion.”
The Alliance delegation also asked Sinn Fein representatives of their plans in regards to leading the republican movement towards full democracy, as outlined in the Alliance Party’s published ten benchmarks.
Councillor Naomi Long, MLA for East Belfast, said:
“Alliance established its own criteria for assessing whether republican or loyalist organisations were acting in a way conducive for political progress in Northern Ireland. While the IRA statement has satisfied an item or two, we are particularly concerned about the republican movement’s position on matters of policing and criminal justice.
“No society can progress without the acceptance of a policing system or respect for the judicial process.
“The IRA statement presents a clear opportunity for progress towards a safer society. This will require concrete actions by the IRA and Sinn Fein. Any action that the British and Irish Governments take must be matched by the delivery of what is expressed in the IRA statement.
“It is equally important that the rest of us, and particularly unionists, to engage in the process. While everyone has a degree of caution, we need to be willing to be convinced of the bone fides of the IRA statement, in due course.
“Now is a time to work for political progress, all within the framework of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In this regard, we in the Alliance Party will continue to assess progress against our published benchmarks.”