I like many others in the Unionist community have watched with interest the debate that has unfolded after the St. Andrews Agreement document was published. I can understand peoples concerns and questions I like many have found the issues difficult to understand in the absence of the necessary information. Unlike members of political parties I was not briefed and instead have made my own efforts to learn more about the deal.
It is good that many people are interested in the victims' opinion this is indeed a changed situation from 1998 when we were ignored and isolated. Victims have worked hard to ensure we are in a position now to pass meaningful judgement on this deal. Our final judgement has yet to be made and will not be based on misinformation or vague promises from anyone. It will be based on intelligent informed internal debate. When I respond I will not be speaking for myself but on behalf of victims.
We remain to be convinced, because we are told that the St Andrews Agreement is not the final product, there are yet more concessions to be wrung from Sinn Fein/IRA. After a face to face meeting with the DUP and it leader where a range of concerns were aired and shared in a full and frank way. Our objective remains the same - an end to terrorism criminality and a fair deal for victims. What we see is perhaps a fairer deal however given the total relegation of victims in 1998 it would be difficult to be much worse!
We however do not rely on the words of politicians but rather their actions, there needs to be delivery from both our own politicians the two governments and most importantly Sinn Fein. Firstly the DUP have listened to out requirements and said they are still working at the deal. We expect to see them gain ground that has been lost, clarify and tie down outstanding issues and ensure there are key safeguards. The British Government must show the legislation that will underpin any agreement. However it is Sinn Fein/IRA that must deliver and deliver verifiably and first.
It is ironic that almost a decade into this process we are only now seeing Sinn Fein/Ira being forced to make the hard choices. This is the first fork in the road where they will have to decide, we cannot allow them to pass this point with a terrorist wing armed and intact. Our key requirements which the DUP now have insist on this issue, that there is a verifiable process that will ensure the end of the PIRA as now know it.
As victims we are best placed to monitor the compliance of Sinn Fein/IRA. It is their actions that we will judge, they cannot simply take an oath as an empty formula or pay lip services to their commitments. If they support policing and criminal justice then they must engage and co-operate at every level, including the Historical Enquiries Team and the Assets Recovery Agency. It is the level and results of this engagement and compliance that victims will use to judge republicans and in turn this deal.
Most people would say that I am taking Dr. Paisley at his word, but that is not the case , that is why I was at Newry PSNI station on Thursday past handing in a letter with a list of names of people who are wanted for murder and other serious terrorist crimes, and have asked that these wanted persons be arrested. Likewise I visited Armagh PSNI station and handed in to them a list of names of persons who are wanted in their police area.
On a number of nights during last week I visited various locations in South Armagh to see if republicans had stopped their illegal activities, observation of our well known republicans proved to me that they are still actively involved in their criminal activities including fuel smuggling and delivering this illegal fuel to petrol stations in unionist and loyalist areas of Belfast. We KNOW that their criminality has not stopped and we also know that the persons we have named to the PSNI have NOT YET been arrested.
We will continue to test the agreement before we make any decision and anyone who follows the work of FAIR over the years would realise WE ARE NOT FOR SALE at any price. Men like my father and others who served in the defence of our country had the opportunity to walk away but they decided to stay and defend their community and country with many of them paying the supreme sacrifice. It is in their memory and in support of those left behind that we take a keen interest in the future of our country.
HELP US TELL THE TRUTH