Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Northern Ireland Politicians must break logjam, but wheels need to be greased

Proposals: Richard Haass

The problem with failing to reach agreement is that the deals get worse.

In 2009 Robin Eames and Denis Bradley produced proposals on dealing with our troubled past which were broadly similar to those brought forward by Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan.

These were shot down because of a proposal that a £12,000 recognition payment be made to the relatives of everyone who died in the violence, including members of paramilitary groups.

The Labour Government promised to foot the £300m bill Eames/Bradley would have cost but our parties threw the baby out with the bath water and now the Tories are more sniffy.

Theresa Villiers is clearly under the cosh from the Chancellor to let us stand largely on our own feet and squeeze existing budgets.

That isn't the right approach.

This is a moment for the Prime Minister to intervene and offer to underpin any reasonable agreement.

He should start by getting the parties together, especially the unionists who have the most difficulties, and show some tender loving care.

He can offer assurances about the extent of enquiries, and so can the Irish Government.

He can also commit a contingency fund to help meet the shortfall.

The cost of dealing with the past can't just fall on our shoulders. It involves the murder of British soldiers and civilians, it involves killings by the British State.

The Irish State also had murders carried out in its territory and the United States was, for many years, the main source of IRA weapons.

All have a stake in what happened here and all should, as Richard Haass hinted in his report, have a part to play in providing any needed resources.

Our parties must break the logjam, but they need practical help and not just moral exhortation.

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