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Legacy issues will test Brokenshire

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 07/10/2016

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire

One of the most difficult issues for the parties at Stormont and the Westminster Government is how to deal with the legacy of the past in a way that satisfies everyone. This is an almost impossible task, but it is important that it is firmly on the agenda of the new Secretary of State, James Brokenshire.

In his wide-ranging interview in today's newspaper, his comments and his experience in dealing with this area of hurt will help to reassure many of those, and their families, who have suffered as a result of the Troubles.

These people are still seeking answers, never mind justice, and Mr Brokenshire, in his dealings with families who suffered in the terrorist outrages in London on July 7, 2005, has insights which will help him to champion our local victims.

The Secretary of State is aware of the need for a speedy resolution to this issue, which this newspaper has repeatedly highlighted as a failing of the Good Friday Agreement, the St Andrew's Agreement and the more recent Stormont House Agreement.

The question of dealing with the past has been discussed at length, but there is a great need for an injection of energy in actually doing something about it. The Secretary of State shows a welcome realism when he talks about the need for a resolution on the past to be considered against a wide landscape of competing, and in some cases mutually competing, demands.

Mr Brokenshire also talks about the contribution of the security forces and their sacrifice, as well as the trauma suffered by many of the members and their families. His words will bring comfort to many.

The vast majority of the security forces were dedicated public servants, and while there are justified fears of scapegoating some now elderly service personnel for what may have happened in four previous decades, the Secretary of State acknowledges the importance of the rule of law.

If there are matters to be investigated, so be it, but this process must not be allowed to develop into a witch-hunt in any shape or form.

The new Secretary of State follows a long line of his predecessors, and like them he will be judged ultimately on his actions rather than his words.

In the meantime he has much to accomplish. One advantage is that Mr Brokenshire is known to be close to Prime Minister Theresa May, and has her confidence.

That can only be to the good of all of us in this province.

Belfast Telegraph

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