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Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire seeks progress on legacy issues

By Staff Reporter

Published 17/11/2016

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire
Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire

The Secretary of State has said dealing with the legacy of the Troubles would "benefit from a more public phase" as he attempts to move forward on the stalled issue.

Writing for the Belfast Telegraph on the first anniversary of the Fresh Start Agreement, James Brokenshire said he remains "determined to make progress on this vital issue". However, the process on dealing with the past has been bogged down for years.

Proposed mechanisms were outlined in a previous political settlement - the Stormont House Agreement of 2014 - but they have not been established.

They are stuck in the starting blocks due to a political wrangle linked to the potential non-disclosure of State papers on national security grounds.

Mr Brokenshire wrote: "I have had numerous meetings with victims' groups and Northern Ireland's political parties to try and build the necessary consensus to take this forward.

"I believe this issue would benefit from a more public phase, too, and I am determined to make progress on this vital issue."

While the signatories to the Fresh Start deal - the DUP, Sinn Fein and the British and Irish Governments - hailed it as a new beginning for power-sharing in the aftermath of the crisis over welfare reform, the deal faced heavy criticism for its failure to address victims' issues.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said the Fresh Start Agreement was on life support on its first anniversary.

The East Antrim MLA said the deal had "left victims in limbo".

"Alliance did not fully endorse the so-called Fresh Start Agreement, mainly due to its inability to comprehensively deal with the needs of victims and their families.

"Instead it was used for self-praise by the DUP and Sinn Fein," he said.

Mr Dickson added: "One year on, victims remain without resolution and yet the Executive continues to pretend this deal was ground-breaking.

"Fresh Start was a short-term fix to enable another limp down the road until another crisis, instead of being what it should have been - a deal to resolve the blockages and place Northern Ireland's future on as secure a footing as possible.

"The patchwork so-called Fresh Start deal helped save devolution from collapse in the short-term, but long-term it will not place the institutions on a sustainable basis, never mind offer the true fresh start Northern Ireland needs."

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