Belfast Telegraph

Coaker vow on reconciliation talks

Labour would help set up reconciliation talks for Northern Ireland to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker said.

He accused the Westminster Government of stalling the process by refusing to facilitate talks between the parties.

In his Labour Party conference speech, Mr Coaker said he would have "heeded the call" from victims and survivors, but the Government had done nothing.

He said many communities in Northern Ireland were still "deeply divided" and "sectarianism is an ingrained and uncomfortable truth across all sections of society".

Mr Coaker told delegates in Manchester: "A shared future can only happen through building shared spaces and shared experiences with shared prosperity and shared responsibility.

"That includes taking responsibility for what happened in the past - because we need to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles, the death of 3,000 people and injuries and trauma for tens of thousands more.

"We can't truly move forward until we do. I've met so many people - families and friends of those who died during the terrible conflict of the past - who simply want justice and to know the truth about what happened to them or their loved ones."

Criticising former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson's refusal to set up a reconciliation process, Mr Coaker set out why he believed it was necessary.

He said: "Our view is clear. We need a comprehensive, inclusive process to deal with the past, and victims and survivors should be at the heart of it. It won't be easy.

"There are many challenges and complications. And there is no consensus about what that process should look like. But then there was no consensus at the start of the negotiations that led to the Good Friday agreement. The Agreement showed that you have to get people talking and keep people talking until you find a way forward. But this Tory-led government says nothing, does nothing."

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