Speaking before travelling to Westminster to brief members of both Houses of Parliament on the dangers of the Government’s plans for dealing with paramilitary fugitives from justice, Alliance Leader David Ford has emphasised that Parliament can defeat the current plans. He will call on both Conservative and Liberal Democrat members to vote down the current Bill.
David Ford said: “For four years, the Blair Government has ignored the views of the great majority of the people of Northern Ireland on how to deal with fugitive offenders. Even though Government has ignored us, I have spent a considerable time discussing the issue with opposition spokesmen.
“Alliance wants to see the OTR problem resolved, but it must be compatible with the normal legal framework and OTRs must not get more favourable treatment than those who were released early on licence.
“We are proposing several constructive amendments to the Bill. Innocent exiles must be guaranteed safe return home before criminals can benefit from this scheme.
“Those who want to benefit from the legislation must appear before a court in person. This would at least demonstrate that crimes were still regarded as crimes.
Ministers believe that all that is required is to keep victims informed, while lawyers act out a charade in a special tribunal. This is insulting to victims, and to wider society.
“Licensing arrangements for those guilty of terrorist offences must not depend on a narrow definition of ceasefire, which in the past allowed paramilitaries to terrorise the communities they come from.
“I want to see this Bill significantly amended. I will urge opposition MPs and Peers to do so. Just as in last week’s vote on 90 day detention, Parliament has a duty to stand up to the Prime Minister.”
Among those meeting with Mr Ford are:
- Conservatives David Lidington (Shadow NI Secretary of State), Lord Glentoran (Spokesman for NI in the Lords) and Sir Patrick Cormack (Chair of the NI Affairs Select Committee at Westminster); and
- Liberal Democrats Lembit Opik and Lord Smith (spokesmen on NI is the Commons and the Lords respectively).