Alliance Deputy Leader Eileen Bell has welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement that legislation on ‘on-the-runs’ will not mean an amnesty for those who carried out terrorist activity. But she said the focus of such legislation must change to ensure innocent exiles from Northern Ireland can return home.
The North Down MLA stated: ‘We need to be very clear what the terms “on-the-run” and “exile” mean. “On-the-runs” mean those guilty of terrorist offences who have escaped conviction or full sentence, and the Secretary of State is quite right that they must face court before being allowed to return home. “Exiles” are those who were forced out of their homes by paramilitary dictat – the legislation must ensure they can return home without fear of intimidation.
‘We in Alliance with our Liberal Democrat colleagues have long called for “on-the-runs” to face due judicial process, and we therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s comments in Parliament today on that matter. The issue of innocent exiles and victims remains outstanding, however. ‘Unless we move the focus of the reconciliation process to those who have truly suffered, rather than those who caused the suffering, the “grievance culture” will prevail and stability will remain a long way off. There is a long way to go, but at least it appears we are on the right road.’