Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Fresh bid to move forward on Troubles legacy

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

Stormont leaders are to meet within days to attempt to hammer out a way of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

The meeting, which has fallen through a number of times, is also set to try to agree proposals for dealing with contentious parades.

First Minister Peter Robinson said in terms of the past he hoped the meeting would reach the “highest possible level of agreement”.

He confirmed that what he called the “vital” issue of dealing with the past remains one area on which a Stormont working group on the so-called Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) strategy has failed to reach a consensus.

In a written answer yesterday, he and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The working group has substantively completed its work and we have received the draft document. We are seeking to engage with party leaders with a view to publishing the strategy as soon as possible.”

In the Assembly, Mr Robinson added: “I am not sure — I have certainly not had any indication — that there is agreement around the chamber, never mind outside, not even in the victims' sector, on any one way of dealing with the past. In the absence of overall agreement, we have to get the highest possible level of agreement.”

But he also clashed with Alliance over the two months of violence and disruption which has followed Belfast City Council’s decision to shift from displaying the Union flag all year round to designated days.

East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle asked the DUP leader to reflect on the impact the 40,000 leaflets distributed in the area in the run-up to the council vote in early December had had on CSI.

Mr Robinson said people would find it difficult to understand that Alliance councillors had backed changing the status quo in Belfast and then attempted to explain their move as a compromise.

He asked the party to reflect on the damage its actions had caused.

The SDLP’s John Dallat warned “many will want to wash their hands” of guilt for the events over the Christmas and New Year period.

Regarding the long-delayed CSI document, he added: “The time for shilly-shallying is over.” The exchange came after hardline unionist Jim Allister asked whether Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness had considered asking Executive ministers to reveal the truth about their pasts.

Mr Robinson said neither he nor Mr McGuinness had the authority to require any such disclosure and Mr Allister responded: “The First Minister can do better than that, surely?”

He said it would be a significant “confidence-building” measure if Mr McGuinness told the truth about the past, rather than “trying to pretend to us” that he “mysteriously” left the IRA in the early 1970s.

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