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New proposals for a process to deal with the Troubles

The commission tasked with helping victims and survivors of The Troubles here wants to test the political will to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s violent past.

That is part of the thinking behind the Commission for Victims and Survivors’ near-50 page document now with Secretary of State Owen Paterson, First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Its plan rules out an amnesty and suggests a new agency to deal with investigations and information recovery.

The commission wants cross-party talks to begin in October with a process for dealing with the past to be in place within a year.

It is an ambitious timetable — and there is no guarantee the plan will succeed.

“This is an issue we haven’t yet grasped,” the commission’s Patricia MacBride said. “We’re asking our political leaders, both the British and Irish Governments and our local parties to show great courage to take one more step in terms of building and maintaining peace.”

The last set of proposals written by the Eames/Bradley Consultative Group and published 18 months ago have been shelved — dismissed in the controversy over a recommendation for a recognition payment of £12,000 to all families who lost someone in the conflict.

“The fundamental difference is that the proposal from Eames/Bradley was around a Legacy Commission that was imposed by government,” Patricia MacBride said.

“And what we are suggesting here is a process that is negotiated between governments, between the political parties and most importantly within society that includes victims and survivors.

”I think that there is a willingness from all sides, and there’s certainly an acknowledgement that the past does need to be dealt with.”

The commission is stressing an urgent need to agree that process: “Left unaddressed and unattended, the past will continue to seep into our times in poisonous and destructive ways,” its report reads.

Last week, in an interview with this newspaper Lord Robin Eames again made the argument for a Legacy Commission — suggesting an international dimension in how it is appointed and operated.

But others argue that before any commission or agency is formed there is a need for clarity on participation in the process — who will co-operate and who won.

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