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Stormont House Agreement 'offers most comprehensive proposals yet for victims'

Published 27/10/2015

There is stalemate at Stormont over the Stormont House Agreement
There is stalemate at Stormont over the Stormont House Agreement

The Stormont House Agreement represents the most comprehensive set of proposals yet to address victims' needs, the Victims' Commissioner said.

Judith Thompson said there was an opportunity to uncover more truth about Northern Ireland's past.

It follows nationalist criticism of legislation being drafted in Westminster which it is claimed will hide the state's role in the conflict.

The commissioner said: "The proposed institutions and services of the Stormont House Agreement ... represent an important opportunity and the most comprehensive set of proposals yet to address victims' needs."

Proposed organisations include the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to be run by independent detectives searching for evidence for prosecutions and the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR) where realistic prospects of convictions do not exist.

There are plans for an oral history archive. Other proposed services include a reinvigorated mental trauma service, pensions for those severely injured during the Troubles, counselling and the Implementation and Reconciliation Group.

Part of the latter group's remit is to work with the UK and Irish governments to "consider statements of acknowledgements".

Ms Thompson told Stormont Assembly members: "It is my view that the HIU will make a significant contribution to the pursuit of justice for those families seeking it.

"The ICIR has the potential to uncover more/further truth.

"The combination of the delivery of the mental trauma service, the pension for the seriously injured, provision of advocate counsellor services and the continued funding of the Victims and Survivors Service will make a significant contribution to a package of reparations."

Legislation is due to proceed through Westminster, guided by the Northern Ireland Office, despite the stalemate at Stormont over the Stormont House Agreement.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said the law will only come into operation if the parties resolve disputes about Stormont House, including welfare reform.

Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly member Gerry Kelly said: "The British Government's legislation on dealing with the legacy of the past is in clear breach of the Stormont House Agreement.

"The legislation being proposed by Theresa Villiers and her colleagues in the British Government is about hiding the British state's role as a central player in the conflict and its collusion with unionist death squads."

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