Responding to a Statement by Emma Little-Pengelly MP, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors says she totally agrees that there is no moral equivalence between those who have caused harm and those who have suffered harm.
The definition of a Victim was laid down by Parliament as the ultimate democratic authority. The Commission has never, since it’s inception, sought to change the legislation on which it was created.
The definition has always been uncomfortable and contested but the fact that it exists has allowed for the creation of a 10-year government strategy and the provision of services to Victims and Survivors through the VSS and funded groups.
In presenting her Victims and Survivors Pensions Arrangement (VASPA) advice as requested by the Secretary of State the Commissioner and her office followed the terms of reference agreed between the Commission, the Northern Ireland Office and The Executive Office. At no point did the Commissioner address eligibility and nor was she expected to.
The Commissioner has always been aware that there is a perception that the VASPA is somehow drawing a moral equivalence between victims and perpetrators. That is not the case. Neither the Commission recommendations nor the 2006 Order make any reference to moral equivalence: it is a legal definition and the parameters within which the Commission must work.
The Commissioner has previously welcomed the fact that the VASPA has been passed by Parliament and it was Parliament that determined the eligibility criteria.
Finally, the office of The Commission is for everyone who has suffered harm and many different perspectives come through that door. That is why the Commission was established.
The work towards continuing peace and reconciliation has to be uncomfortable for everyone, even the Commission, but the prize has to be worth it.