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Foster rejects police chief Hamilton's idea to draw line under Troubles

By Noel McAdam

Published 16/02/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster
First Minister Arlene Foster
PSNI chief constable George Hamilton

First Minister Arlene Foster has rejected the idea of drawing a line on Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Following PSNI chief constable George Hamilton's suggestion last week of a debate on the controversy, the DUP leader said: "I certainly do not agree that a line should be drawn under the past."

Responding to a question in the Assembly from Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy, she said she would continue "to support the victims in getting justice if that is what they want to do".

The First Minister said some victims wanted the truth, others wanted justice "and others simply want it all to go away".

Mrs Foster also stressed: "We all need to be very careful that we are not adding to the trauma that many live with daily.

"Some of those whom I met recently recounted to me that when something is said the victims who hear it are deeply hurt, and many can be retraumatised."

Speaking at her second Assembly Question Time since becoming First Minister, Mrs Foster also rebuffed a challenge from hardline unionist Jim Allister than she is "in government" with the IRA army council.

The TUV leader asked if she still believed her partner in government, Sinn Fein, who signed the 'Fresh Start' deal with her party, remained "inextricably linked to the still-active IRA".

"If she does still think that, does that amount to an acknowledgement that she is in government with the IRA, army council and all?" he said. Mrs Foster quipped: "The last time I looked, my partner was somebody completely different, but that is another matter."

She said the deal last November clearly states that no party to the agreement will accept: "authority, direction or control on our political activities other than our democratic mandate alongside our own personal and party judgment".

And she added: "It is clear to me that we have set out a very good road map to deal with paramilitarism, which has not been dealt with to date - which I regret.

"In Fresh Start, we have set out a clear road map to deal with the issues, including a strategy to disband the paramilitary organisations that have been referred to.

"A task force has been put in place, and a pledge of office, which, I understand, is being put into legislation at Westminster as we speak.

"As far as I am concerned, there is a very clear road map ahead. The Member may want to go backwards, but I want to move forward."

Mr Allister said: "With the IRA."

Mrs Foster also told MLAs she agreed with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers' speech last week warning against a "pernicious" attempt to rewrite the history of the Troubles.

Mrs Foster said: "Over the past couple of months, if not years, there have been attempts to try to rewrite what happened here over the past 35 to 40 years.

"It is important that the facts remain, which are that 90% of those who were murdered in Northern Ireland were murdered by terrorist organisations.

"It was not the state that caused those terrible deaths, and it is important that we remember that when we have a narrative about what happened in the past.

Certainly, as far as I am concerned, there will be no amnesty and no rewriting of the past, and we will provide support for victims in their search for justice," she added.

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