Paterson: Truth body will not work for Northern Ireland's Troubles legacy
Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has ruled out a truth commission to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.
The Secretary of State instead threw his weight behind the Historical Enquiries Team, which is investigating Troubles murders.
He said “the HET route is the right one”, adding that there is a “really high level of satisfaction” from families with the Historical Enquiries Team.
Mr Paterson said there was no need for a “shiny, glossy new organisation”.
The issue of how to deal with the past has been an enduring problem throughout the peace process, with little agreement about how to proceed.
In 2009 a report by the Consultative Group on the Past compiled by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley proposed a Legacy Commission led by an international figure.
But the report was shelved after controversy over a proposal for a £12,000 compensation payment for all Troubles victims.
Speaking last night at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Mr Paterson said: “What comes out of these (HET) reports is the absolutely appalling tragedy that in some of these deaths we will never
know.” He added: “The conception that setting up a new panel, probably chaired by a blond Finn, will get to the bottom of these cases... the fact is, in some cases, they won’t.”
Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy said: “Truth recovery is a difficult process, but there is a genuine desire across broad sections of the community to try to find answers.”
Sinn Fein victims’ spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin said: “Sinn Fein have made it clear that it is our view that what is required is a victim-centred international, independent truth recovery process.
“Republicans have made it clear that we would participate in such a body.
“The British Government should make it clear whether they would participate in such a process also, instead of staving |off the rights and demands of victims of this conflict.”
However, Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott said the truth commission didn’t work in South Africa “and it won’t work in Northern Ireland”.
“You just wouldn’t get the truth and all that it would do is frustrate the victims of this society and would leave them absolutely frustrated.
“They would say: ‘What was the point in it if it’s not going to bring out the truth?’, so I think it is not even worth attempting to do,” he said.
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When it comes to dealing with the past, Sinn Fein and some others favour an independent, international commission, in a similar style to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
However, in the wake of the £200m Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the Government ruled out holding further expensive inquiries into the past.