Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

David Ford pushes for Haass cold case unit

Executive party leaders and negotiators have been meeting in recent weeks trying to advance the proposals
Executive party leaders and negotiators have been meeting in recent weeks trying to advance the proposals

The Department of Justice is pushing for the Haass-proposed Historical Investigations Unit to be established now, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.

Its position is set out in a paper given to Executive party leaders earlier this week as part of the dialogue on the Haass/O'Sullivan proposals for addressing the past.

The Belfast Telegraph understands the paper from the department – headed by David Ford – also outlines a plan for a possible new Legacy Inquest Unit at an estimated cost of £30 million.

"The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service, which provides administrative support for the Coroner's Service, is developing proposals for a Legacy Inquest Unit, which would handle the investigation of deaths involving State agencies," the paper reads.

"The new unit would be organised along the lines of the inquest into the London bombings on 7/7 2005."

Executive party leaders and negotiators have been meeting in recent weeks trying to advance the proposals made by the US team as part of a long consultation and negotiation process.

On the past, the proposals by Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan are for an Historical Investigations Unit, an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval, and an Implementation and Reconciliation Group in an oversight and monitoring role. There would also be an archive to log conflict experiences and a proposal for an acknowledgement process.

The Department of Justice paper given to leaders on Tuesday is headed: 'Contending with the past – why the status quo is not an option.'

"There is a strong case for establishing the Historical Investigations Unit now, whether as part of a broader package of measures or on its own," it says.

But DUP negotiator Jeffrey Donaldson told this newspaper: "From our perspective, it is clear that the widest gap is on the parades issue, and we cannot deal with the other issues in isolation.

"There remain a number of issues that we need to clarify on the past and the idea that we could separate out any of these matters is unrealistic."

The clear reading of that statement is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

More talks on the Haass/O'Sullivan text are scheduled for the beginning of next week.

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