Belfast Telegraph

Stormont legacy issues impasse can be overcome with legal imagination

By Professor Kieran McEvoy

With negotiations ongoing on the legacy of the past, it appears likely that the government wishes to commence a public consultation on proposed legislation to finally implement the Troubles-related elements of the Stormont House Agreement.

The balance between national security and the right to truth of families affected by the conflict apparently remains a sticking point in the negotiations. For a number of years, academic colleagues based at Queen's and Ulster universities and I have been working with human rights and victims' organisations on legacy related matters.

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When it became clear that national security had become a major obstacle, we started working on a model to resolve the impasse, which we shared with the two governments in May 2016.

Given the imminent consultation process, the time is now right to put that model in the public domain. It proposes that, in the event of a dispute:

l An independent judicial body would decide on the legitimacy of national security concerns based on specified legal criteria;

l That criteria would prohibit the redaction of information on unlawful activities, obsolete counter-terrorist techniques or embarrassing revelations and;

l Decisions would be reached following a legal hearing with the views of all (including families) being legally represented.

Having looked closely at the issues, national security is resolvable given an appropriate combination of political will and legal imagination.

Victims have waited long enough.

Professor Kieran McEvoy is from the School of Law and Senator George J Mitchell Institute, Queen's University Belfast

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