A Church of Ireland Minister from Lack has criticised the “immoral definition of what constitutes a victim” and the “flawed attempt to deal with Northern Ireland’s past”.

Rev. Alan Irwin, the chairman of South East Fermanagh Foundation’s steering group, addressed the Ulster Unionist Party conference on Saturday during a discussion on the legacy of the Troubles.

“We’ve endured years of terrorism, terrorist activity and still do, though now we call them dissidents, yet society seems more reluctant to call it for what it was and is, terrorism.

“It may be something to do with the usual rhetoric – can’t do anything that might upset the peace process or take us back to violence – it affirms a ‘peace process’ built on a sandy foundation if any uncomfortable words can so easily affect its survival,” he told the event in Armagh.

Rev. Irwin, whose father and uncle were killed by the IRA, spoke of the “destruction of forensic and ballistic evidence as the terrorist arsenal was being put beyond use”, claiming it may have been to the “delight of terrorists as no possible future convictions were now likely.”

“What saddens me most is that church leaders were involved in that betrayal of the innocent. They are meant to stand up for the persecuted, the widow and the fatherless. They will tell you they did it for peace, but when you sacrifice truth and justice on the altar of peace, you have no peace,” he said.

“And of course the most depraved of all,” added Rev. Irwin, “an immoral definition of what constitutes a victim, which puts the terrorist perpetrators in the same bracket as the innocent victims,” he said.

Rev. Irwin challenged unionists, the Alliance Party and the SDLP “to take responsibility, grasp the high moral ground, have the political courage, to stop talking about it and change it for the innocent.”

He criticised the Historical Investigation Unit, saying his family have been “kicked between the HET, PSNI and the policing board until they were questioned on the truth of their words and actions”.

“It now means under the current proposals my family, as many others, will not have access to the Historical Investigation Unit (HIU), unless new evidence emerges.

“As provisional Sinn Fein, it appears don’t genuinely support the PSNI, possibly because of a deep distrust of Ex RUC officers who still serve within its ranks, appeasement then leads to a parallel HIU to carry out those investigations that should have been carried out in accordance with due process,” he said.

Sinn Fein is in a “state of denial”, said Rev Irwin, adding: “As apologists still unable to grasp that those they continue to eulogise and glorify, were terrorists/murderers, who carried out the most heinous of crimes, sheer naked sectarianism and ethnic cleansing. Still in denial that republican terrorists carried out 60 per cent of murders.

“Still delaying in telling the truth, providing information that could bring closure to families of every creed, and a sense of true justice and still at ease to allow families to die without any answers to why those whom they defend, needlessly believed murder, bombings, disposing of bodies secretly and torture was justified,” he said.

Rev. Irwin added: “What concerns me is how they are allowed to pedal this apportioning of blame to the UK government and the forces of law and order with relative ease, knowing that terrorists were responsible for the majority of murders, with rarely a rebuttal from senior sources within government.

“Therefore, the danger exists that the historical narrative will be lost. One thing can be certain, is that the innocent victim will tell the truth, the question you must ask will the terrorist?”

In concluding, Rev. Irwin said: “Why are we the innocent victims who already carry the burden of injustice now being asked to carry the burden of lies and guilt that isn’t ours to carry. Why are we being asked to surrender to terrorists, to assist in placating terrorists?

“Why are we being asked to allow the terrorist to dictate our truth, our justice, our future? Why are we being asked to allow the terrorist to exonerate themselves from the culpability of 90 per cent of the murderous atrocities? Why are we being asked to betray our loved ones, family, friends, colleagues the forces of law and order?

“Have they not been betrayed enough,” he said, receiving a standing ovation.