Belfast Telegraph

Brokenshire right to help victims' groups

Editor's Viewpoint

Secretary of State James Brokenshire is right when he says that the victims' groups have waited a very long time for a resolution of their trauma and that he must move things forward.

In that, he is echoing the words of this newspaper which has been urging politicians to find a way of dealing with the toxic legacy of the past.

It seemed they had finally decided to move three years ago when a plan for the establishment of an Historic Investigations Unit to investigate unsolved murders, a truth recovery body and an oral history archive was proposed. Sadly, like so many other initiatives aimed at helping those bereaved or injured, the plan has simply been gathering dust at Stormont as devolution went into meltdown and politicians began haranguing each other over who was responsible for the collapse of the institutions.

While Mr Brokenshire would prefer any new initiative to involve local politicians - after all they are closest to the suffering of the bereaved and injured - he is prepared to move without them.

He is proposing to begin a consultation process at an early - if undisclosed - date, even if the parties cannot agree to return to the work they were elected to do. This is a welcome development, but it must also bear something of a health warning.

The government has shown some reluctance over disclosing secrets of the past - using the national security veto to prevent sensitive documents being released.

That may give an almost literal get out of jail free card to paramilitaries who could use it as an excuse for not disclosing their own sordid activities.

And with the parties showing no great haste to deal with the legacy of the past, they may well be content to sit on the sidelines until this thorny issue is dealt with from Westminster and then join in the chorus of complaints if the proposed plan of action does not meet with public approval.

Yet it would be churlish to dismiss Mr Brokenshire's attempt to breathe new life into a running sore that has festered for decades and has seen many campaigners and relatives go to their graves without any resolution of their demands for some kind of justice. History will not be kind to this time in Northern Ireland. To date we have failed the people who suffered most grievously during the Troubles and whose trauma in the years since has been compounded by the indifference of society towards them.

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