Belfast Telegraph

'Troubles stories' may be recorded

People involved in the Northern Ireland Troubles could have their accounts of what happened recorded by a new independent body, the government has said.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson said the option was one of a number he was considering before making a decision on how best to deal with the legacy of decades of violence.

Mr Paterson effectively ruled out a South African- style Truth Commission but said providing a new platform, to record stories from the Troubles and to allow access to official files, may be an option.

In a speech focusing on 'dealing with the past', Mr Paterson appeared to discount some proposals, before adding: "A further idea is some kind of mechanism for information sharing and recovery.

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

"Anything similar in Northern Ireland would clearly need involvement from all those involved in the events of the past forty 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 and under what circumstances. Such a process would require a government contribution, for example over the release of documents, but it would have to be wholly independent of government."

He added: "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.

"It wouldn't be a shortcut to dealing with the past. But it might help families, and wider society, achieve greater understanding and closure, however difficult that might be.

He used his speech at the Leonard Steinberg Memorial Lecture given at London think tank, Policy Exchange, to also threaten legislation to end double-jobbing between the Assembly and Westminster. But his comments on dealing with the past dominated his address and follow repeated calls from Sinn Fein for a truth recovery process that would be international and independent of government.

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