McCrea launches scathing attack on UUP councillor’s terrorist remarks

MID-ULSTER MLA Ian McCrea has launched a scathing attack on an Ulster Unionist councillor for comments he made to the MAIL about the treatment of terrorists in the province.

Last week UUP Cookstown councillor Robert Kelly said that those responsible for maiming or killing during the Troubles should have been “sought out and punished” like Al Qaeda.

Councillor Kelly made the comments following a meeting with a Mid-Ulster victims group which UUP leader Mike Nesbitt also attended.

The Ulster Unionist also lambasted both Sinn Fein and the DUP, accusing each of “covering up” details of the past to “keep the peace process on track”.

This week DUP Assemblyman McCrea has hit back at his Cookstown council colleague’s remarks, which he labelled “hypocritical”, and accused the UUP of leaving a legacy of suffering in Northern Ireland.

“It is absolutely incredible that any member of the Ulster Unionist Party should seek to lecture others on the issue of victims and the treatment of terrorists,” said the DUP MLA.

“It has obviously escaped Cllr Kelly’s memory that the Ulster Unionist Party voted to release terrorists from prison without having served their sentence. Far from following the example of Israel, the USA or anywhere else the UUP simply threw open the doors of the Maze and let prisoners walk out. On top of that Cllr Kelly’s party then entered Government without a single weapon having been decommissioned and whilst terrorist groups still engaged in criminality and terrorism.”

“After entering Government the Ulster Unionist Party then set about introducing a definition of a victim which the Province is now saddled with. The definition agreed by the UUP whilst they were in OFMDFM means that terrorists are classified as victims alongside those who they targeted. It is interesting that whilst accusing others of having a selective recollection of the past that Cllr Kelly appears blissfully unaware of the track record of failure which his party presided over.”

Mr McCrea said he felt that instead of attacking other parties, the UUP should be apologising for their actions in “releasing prisoners and elevating terrorists”.

“Honesty is absolutely vital when we are taking about dealing with the past, as is the need for groups and individuals to apologise. On both of these counts the UUP have absolutely failed and instead of launching attacks on others they should be apologising for their actions in releasing prisoners and elevating terrorists alongside victims,” said the MLA.

“People should compare the record of the Ulster Unionist Party to the DUP, who ensured that all parties gave their full support to the Police, Courts and rule of law before entering Government and that republican weaponry was decommissioned and criminality ended. It is very unfortunate that Northern Ireland still suffers under the legacy inherited from the UUP, but whilst the DUP sought to bring forward changes to the definition of a victim, this was blocked by the SDLP in conjunction with Sinn Fein.

He added: “The DUP is absolutely determined to work in the best interests of victims to ensure that their voice is heard, and that is the reason why greater funding has been put into the victims sector than ever before. It is also why the Victims Commission and Forum have both been created to ensure that the voice of victims is heard at the heart of Government. We will not be moved from that course by the hypocritical calls from a party who appear to believe that the public will have forgotten their role after only a few short years.”

It was just this month that both Mr McCrea and UUP MLA Sandra Overend said they would both be open to talks on the possibility of a joint Unionist bid for Martin McGuinness’ Westminster seat. The Deputy First Minister announced his intention to resign from his Mid-Ulster MP seat on June 10th. Mr McCrea’s latest comments on the Ulster Unionist party however will throw doubt on that possibility.

Councillor Kelly

responds to Ian

McCrea’s comments

In ensuring that the needs of victims are being met we must first appropriately define what the definition of a victim is.

“At present the definition allows the perpetrators of violence an equal footing with innocent victims of terrorism; this is wrong. Ian McCrea seems to lay blame for his definition of a victim in its current form was first set out in legislation within the Victims and Survivors Northern Ireland Order 2006 which was passed under direct rule. Indeed I would draw his attention to the words of his colleague, DUP Chief Whip Peter Weir, who stated in the Assembly on 13th December 2010 in relation to the matter - ‘it is clear that direct rule...adopted the legislation that got us into this mess in the first place.’

“That should be clear for even Mr McCrea to understand.”

He continued: “It is also bizarre to hear Ian McCrea criticise the Ulster Unionist Party for forming a government in 1998 given the recent words of his party leader who stated that power sharing was ‘inevitable since 1972’.

“We took hard decisions at that time and will continue to take those decisions for the betterment of Northern Ireland. Of course we are all aware of the close relationship his party enjoys with Sinn Fein in Stormont yet DUP councillors refuse to be photographed with Sinn Fein in Cookstown - Ian McCrea’s outburst only served to further highlight the hypocrisy of his own party.”

“Finally Mr McCrea says that honesty is vital when dealing with the past if he believes that, and he really wants to hear what victims have to say, then let’s have a public debate somewhere, lets see if victims of terrorism agree with the path the DUP are taking them down, or how much hurt have they recreated for the families who have lost loved ones by allowing prominent terrorists dictate the course of Ulster’s future.”