Northern Ireland

NI victims commissioner Kathryn Stone replies to critics

Kathryn Stone
Image caption Kathryn Stone said it was not her job to tell people which political opinion they should hold

The victims commissioner has said she has "no hesitation at all in condemning all acts of violence" amid controversy over her stance on paramilitaries.

Kathryn Stone is facing a call to "consider her position" due to comments she made in a newspaper interview.

Speaking to the Newsletter, she refused to be drawn on whether she believed the IRA and UVF were terrorists.

The TUV leader Jim Allister said her response had "fatally undermined her ability to represent innocent victims".

He told BBC Radio Ulster that the commissioner was "in the wrong job" and said he believed she should stand down.

Mr Allister said her "evasive" answers in response to questions about whether or not paramilitary groups were terrorists had "caused widespread hurt to innocent victims of terrorists".

He has tabled a motion at the Northern Ireland Assembly calling on her to consider her position. The motion asks MLAs to decide if the commissioner is "fit for office".

However, Ms Stone told BBC Radio Ulster that her job, as defined by law, was to represent the views of "all victims".

She said: "I have no hesitation at all in condemning all acts of violence that have caused unimaginable suffering to victims.

"The position of the victims commissioner is not defined by what people say I should say, it's defined by the law."

Ms Stone added: "I'm not a victims commissioner for one part of the community or for followers of one political party.

"I wasn't appointed to represent one group of victims, I was appointed to represent them all, and I have to ensure that all victims' voices are heard."

Ms Stone was appointed to the role of Northern Ireland victims commissioner in September 2012.

She told Radio Ulster: "I've met with thousands of victims in the past year from all backgrounds and it's true to say that some of those victims believe that organisations like the UVF and like the IRA - which let's remind ourselves are proscribed organisations, they are unlawful organisations - were terrorists.

"I've met with many victims who believe that and I absolutely respect their views.

"I've also met with other victims who believe they were not. This is an accurate reflection of the views of victims I've met and it's not my job to tell people what to think or what political opinion to have."

The commissioner said she believed there was an "epidemic of emotional turmoil" in Northern Ireland.

She added: "I really don't think that debates like this which seek to drag victims and the victims commission and me into the political arena do anything to further the cause of victims.

"We need to think about all victims and not just one particular constituency."

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