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Historians may be best at dealing with Troubles: Owen Paterson

Secretary of State Owen Paterson has said “historians rather than lawyers” might be best placed to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

In a lecture last night he said he was still considering ways of dealing with the past, including the possibility of an adaptation of some of the methods used in Spain following the end of the Franco era.

Spanish legislation in 2007 included provision for a Historical Memory Documentary Centre in Salamanca with public access to archives and documents.

Mr Paterson said: “Anything similar in Northern Ireland would clearly need involvement from all those involved in the events of the past 40 years. It could not be a one-sided exercise.

“And its value would be highly dependent on the extent to which individuals would be prepared to tell their story.”

He said Government would also have to play its part in releasing documents, but the process would have to be independent.

“There might also ultimately be a role for a panel of historians to interpret all the available material with a view to producing the authoritative history of the Troubles,” he said.

“Historians might have more appropriate skills than lawyers in helping to resolve the past.”

Mr Paterson also made it clear there will be no rethink on public spending cuts facing Northern Ireland.

His blunt message is likely to infuriate Sinn Fein, who have been calling for ongoing opposition to cuts imposed by the Westminster Government's October 20 spending review.

Sinn Fein's stance has been blamed by the DUP for a hold-up in a new Executive budget.

Mr Paterson said: “What Northern Ireland now needs is clarity and certainty. The substantial settlement announced by the Chancellor is precisely that – a settlement.

“So it’s now essential that the Executive completes the task of setting its own budget so that it can deliver the services on which people rely.”

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