Lisburn Ulster Unionists have reacted with outrage to comments made by local MLA Basil McCrea during the debate about the ‘on-the-runs’ in the Assembly.
Last week the Assembly held a heated debate about the revelation that letters were sent to 187 Republican suspects in relation to the possibility they would not face criminal charges.
During the debate Lagan Valley MLA Mr McCrea said politicians must “draw a line under the past.”
He continued: “We have two options: we either lurch from crisis to crisis, driven by the politics of the past or, we can draw a line under it and move forward.”
“The only way Northern Ireland will have a future is if we draw a line under the past. We must find a way of binding together the remaining strands of the Agreement which is unbiased.
“Such a move will be difficult for victims; they must receive all the support the Government can offer, yet, to do nothing is to subject Northern Ireland to at best, forever bitter, corrosive and ineffectual politics and at worst a return to violence.
“The post-1998 political process in Northern Ireland must be redirected to pursue the common good rather than address narrower interests, to be oriented towards our future rather than defined by our past.”
It was Mr McCrea’s use of the phrase “those whom some call terrorists” that has caused outrage in his former party.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Alexander Redpath reacted furiously to this statement. “Terrorism is not subjective,” said Mr Redpath. “It is clearly defined in the Terrorism Act 2000. The IRA were terrorists and there can be no doubt on that point.
“I challenge Mr McCrea to clarify what he means with these comments. Were the republicans behind the Lisburn half-marathon bomb terrorists? Or does Mr McCrea believe that is a matter of interpretation?
“There can be no equivocation on terrorism and anyone who seeks to do so is unworthy of being called a unionist.”
I demand that Mr McCrea clarify these remarks and apologise to the innocent victims who would be grossly offended by any suggestion than terrorism is a subjective term when used in relation to the IRA.
“Over the past few months Mr McCrea has greatly disappointed those who elected him. He has repeatedly called for an amnesty for terrorists. He has cosied up to Sinn Fein and now he is perpetuating their lie that terrorism is in the eye of the beholder.
“I would urge Mr McCrea to think very carefully about his comments and if an apology is not forthcoming consider his position as a unionist MLA,” concluded Mr Redpath.