Alliance Party Leader David Ford MLA has expressed his anger at the Government’s apparent intentions to allow paramilitary fugitives home without addressing the concerns and needs of their victims. He was speaking as he led a party delegation to meet with Government ministers and officials to discuss the anticipated legislation on the issue, and he will be holding further meetings with parliamentarians from various Westminster parties in London next week.
Mr Ford stated: “We in Alliance will simply not allow the political process to degenerate into a series of murky deals and sectarian hand-outs. We are extremely angry that legislation dealing with so-called ‘on-the-runs’ could be seriously weakened by the Government’s apparent desire to put the needs of the terrorist before the needs of the victim. This would be a disgraceful way to address this issue.
“In that context I have led a delegation from my party to meet with Government ministers and officials, at their request, to learn specific details on their proposed legislation ahead of an announcement on the specifics of the proposed legislation this afternoon.
“We have constructive on this issue since we raised it at Weston Park four years ago, but we have consistently met a brick wall. There remain three specific aspects that we expect Government to address: first, those innocent people exiled by paramilitary groups must be assured a safe return home before any legislation goes before Parliament; second, fugitives must appear in person before the court, not by proxy, to give the victim some sense at least of justice; and third, licensing of those allowed to return to Northern Ireland under such legislation must be much tighter, and must ensure licences are revoked for any criminal activity, paramilitary-linked or otherwise.
“From what we know, and expect to learn, we fear these issues will not have been addressed satisfactorily in any Government plans. Therefore I have already organised further meetings with Westminster parliamentarians to address the serious defects in the legislation. I will be meeting interested parties next week.
“I will also be leaving the Government in no doubt that people will continue to lose faith in the political process while it continues to act so immorally and unjustly. In the end, common sense and decency must prevail.”