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Perpetrators of Troubles' crimes must face justice, James Brokenshire warns

Published 26/07/2016

James Brokenshire said it was important to instil confidence in victims' relatives
James Brokenshire said it was important to instil confidence in victims' relatives

The new Northern Ireland Secretary has warned that perpetrators of Troubles' crimes must face justice.

James Brokenshire said it was important to instil confidence in victims' relatives who have waited decades for proper investigations.

Protecting security should not be used as a measure to avoid embarrassment, he added, but he had a duty to keep everybody in Northern Ireland and the UK safe.

Mr Brokenshire met members of the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) a human rights organisation in Derry which represents mainly nationalist victims.

He said: "If there is criminality I am looking for appropriate justice."

Among those Mr Brokenshire met was Tony Brown, whose nephew, Paul Whitters, was 15 years old when he was shot in the head with a plastic bullet.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said: "Do I want to see people brought to justice as a consequence of information - I absolutely do."

He said his approach was about: "Getting this right in ensuring national security but also doing what we can to give confidence to those looking for answers."

A series of mechanisms were agreed at Stormont House in Belfast between the local parties, including a cold case review by law enforcement officers and information retrieval where no prosecutions were possible.

Their implementation has been delayed by nationalist concerns that national security prohibitions will be used over-zealously to prevent the release of information about wrongdoing by members of the security forces.

Mr Brokenshire added that the majority of people affected would have been as a consequence of terrorist activity.

He said it was important to "give confidence across the whole community here that this is a robust process which is where the framework set by Stormont House really matters and is really important and I am keen to build on that approach so that we can move this issue forward and start to respond to the concerns."

Pat Finucane Centre worker Sara Duddy said Mr Brokenshire requested the meeting and he believed dealing with the past was a priority.

"We took that as a positive sign and a breath of fresh air to get this up and running.

"We work with families waiting 30 or 40 years for their cases to be investigated.

"It is being passed on to the next generation, it is poisoning society, people cannot move on because the past is always there poisoning the situation.

"We are cautiously optimistic and we think the meeting was positive."

The British Government, Sinn Fein and some victims have held differences over national security prohibitions on the release of information relating to Troubles' violence but Ms Duddy said it was a matter of agreeing the "finite details".

"We would be of the view along with the Irish and British governments that there is a way forward."

Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "James Brokenshire has said it is important to instil confidence in all victims.

"He can do that by changing the policy of his predecessor and putting the needs of grieving families ahead of bogus national security concerns by immediately approving the Lord Chief Justice's request for funding to enable him to fast-track some 56 inquests involving up to 100 deaths."

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