Alliance Party Leader, David Ford, has urged the Government to avoid making further knee-jerk concessions to Republicans on the back of the completion of decommissioning and instead focus on the needs to the political process and of Northern Ireland overall. He indicated that the looming issue of ‘On the Runs’ is an area where a change of approach would be appropriate.
Speaking on the eve of the Secretary of State’s address to the Labour Party Conference, David Ford said:
“The political process must be more than simply the British Government trading concessions for IRA decommissioning in order to safeguard their own narrow security interests. The ultimate objective must surely be the creation of a shared future and the restoration of devolution to Northern Ireland.
“It is clear that the Government seriously mishandled the announcements in the wake of the July IRA statement. The presentation of unilateral concessions to one party creates cynicism and mistrust, and actually delays the restoration of devolution. It is much better to proceed on the basis of engagement, and a reflection of the views of the people of Northern Ireland in any moves that have to take place.
“The looming matter of legislation on the so called ‘On the Runs’ is a case in point. While the Government may have made commitments on this matter. There is still significant scope for making some changes to the proposed legislation to better address the concerns of Northern Ireland citizens.
“Some of the OTRs are linked to some of worst atrocities during ‘the Troubles’. The controversy surrounding this issue could very well dwarf the arguments that surrounded the release of Sean Kelly and the return of the Colombia Three.
“Alliance has suggested that the return of the OTRs be linked to the lifting of the threat against the exiles, making the OTRs actually appear in court rather than being represented by proxy at a Special Judicial Tribunal, and to link the licence terms to the end of all paramilitary activity rather than a narrowly defined ‘ceasefire’.”