Alliance Party Leader, David Ford, has criticised further comments by the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, on Good Morning Ulster, when, in relation to continued UVF activities, he implied that only ‘political offences’ would be considered breaches of a ‘ceasefire’, and pointed out that unless a tighter definition is deployed, certain paramilitary groups would be able to literally get away with murder.
David Ford said:
“It is clear that when it comes to the UVF, the Secretary of State and the Government are still working on an outmoded and inappropriate definition of a ‘ceasefire’.
“For too long within the peace process, the Government have in practice defined a ‘ceasefire’ as being an end to ‘politically-motivated’ attacks on the security forces, economic targets and the perceived other side of the community. This has left considerable space for a wide range of paramilitary and criminal activity to continue without being regarded as a breach of a ‘ceasefire’.
“Certain paramilitary organisations have been literally able to get away with murder. Both Loyalists and Republicans have killed people with impunity, without their ‘ceasefires’ being called into question.
“Depending upon the identity of the victim, it is possible for a lower category of crime to be treated more seriously than murder. This is not only perverse, but extremely hurtful to victims and the rule of law.
“In this approach, the Governments have been aided and abetted by the unionist parties and the SDLP. The silence of unionist politicians over the status of the UVF ceasefire is concerning, while the SDLP have not put the same effort into questioning the status of the IRA ceasefire when that organisation has been associated with brutal crimes.
“Over the past few years, the Governments had apparently been shifting their understanding and position through the publication of paragraph 13 of the Joint Declaration, the creation of the Independent Monitoring Commission, and the recent, but belated insistence, that the IRA announce an end to all paramilitary and criminal activity in their recent statement.
“It is high time that the Government recognised that all paramilitary and criminal activity is a threat to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Arbitrary distinctions between different types of paramilitary activity undermine the fundamental bedrocks of a peaceful society.
“In refusing to specify the UVF, the Secretary of State is not only sending a signal of weakness to the wider community, but he is risking undoing much of the progress achieved in recent years in moving Northern Ireland towards a peaceful and democratic future.”