An Alliance delegation met the Secretary of State at Hillsborough yesterday evening and took the opportunity to highlight its concerns about proposed legislation allowing paramilitaries who are ‘on the run’ to return home.
Alliance Leader David Ford, who led the delegation, said:
“I remain concerned about the Government’s plans for dealing with the issue of the ‘On the Runs’. I do not believe that Ministers appreciate the deep concern that exists in the community about any measure that would allow criminals to return home without a proper judicial procedure.
“That concern is no confined to anti-Agreement unionists. It exists right across the law-abiding community. For many, early release for prisoners
was difficult to swallow. An effective amnesty for OTRs, as promised to Sinn Fein four years ago, is simply not acceptable.
“It is not good enough to set up a special tribunal that allows OTRs to avoid even appearing in Court. It is unacceptable to make arrangements
for the OTRs while those exiled by paramilitaries remain fearful about what might happen to them if they returned.
“Alliance wants to see this issue resolved, but it must be in a way that provides some comfort for the victims of violence.
“That requires reassurance for the exiles that they are safe to return home. It requires a Court appearance and a finding of guilt where
appropriate. It requires any release to be on licence, subject to the good behaviour of the individual and the organisation.
“We will be taking up the Secretary of State’s offer of further in-depth talks with David Hanson, the Minister responsible for this legislation. We will also be holding talks with Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and Peers in the coming weeks.”