Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams called today for a truth commission on the Troubles — saying it should be helped by “all relevant parties”.
Mr Adams appeared to include the IRA in his call for all groups to come clean about the conflict, raising the spectre of specific explanations about episodes like the 1987 Enniskillen bombing that killed 11 people.
But he also indicated that the success of such a venture would be dependent on full cooperation from the Government, and accused London of resisting a number of attempts to address unanswered questions about the Troubles.
Mr Adams' call — made in today's issue of An Phoblacht/Republican News — sets the republican bar for the upcoming report by the Consultative Group on the Past, the group led by former Church of Ireland Archbishop Lord Eames and ex-Policing Board vice chairman Denis Bradley.
The Eames-Bradley group is due to make recommendations for dealing with the past by the end of the year.
The Sinn Fein president said that his party, after meeting a number of victims groups, has decided “that the establishment of an Independent International Truth Commission is the best way of taking this issue forward”.
Mr Adams had previously said there was “merit” in the idea of a truth commission, but had stopped short of giving it full backing. But now he is endorsing the idea, adding that there “must be a process that can deliver the truth to bereaved families as a result of independent investigation”.
“Key to the success of such a Commission is the full co-operation by all relevant parties,” he wrote.
That would appear to include the IRA, which has previously issued a blanket apology to “non-combatants it has killed or injured and their families”, but has not involved itself in detailed explanations of particular incidents.
But Mr Adams particularly highlighted the role of the Government, saying that there had been official attempts to cover up incidents like the deaths of 11 people in Ballymurphy 37 years ago.
“For our part Sinn Fein is very mindful of all of the difficulties involved in truth recovery, particularly for victims and their families,” he wrote.
“But we believe that as society seeks to leave conflict behind and to move forward there is a requirement that all of us address the tragic human consequences of the past.”
Mr Adams said “the willingness of individuals to voluntarily participate will be greatly enhanced if the Commission is seen to be independent, have an international dimension and be fair and equitable”.
“Of course, it won't be easy,” he added.
“There are vested groups who will not want the truth; and who will oppose the creation of a meaningful truth recovery process.
“So this is going to be an immensely difficult and painful process and experience. It must therefore be conducted in a sensitive and generous way.
“Building a united harmonious society demands that these difficult issues are dealt with in an inclusive way as a necessary part of putting the past behind us. Looking after victims and victims' families and survivors is a significant and important part of this.”
He said any truth process would have to examine the issue of collusion.
“Brushing it under the carpet, revising our history to exorcise the role of the British state in fomenting and prolonging conflict in our country, is in no ones interest — especially the families,” he wrote.
“Republicans have clearly acknowledged many times the hurt they inflicted during the conflict.
“I have expressed my personal and sincere regret and apologised for that hurt.
“The IRA has also acknowledged what it has done. That is the right and proper thing to do.”
Mr Adams said Sinn Fein believes a truth process should be “victim-centred”, that there should be “no hierarchy of victims” and “all processes should be politically neutral”.
He indicated a commission could be an important step towards reconciliation, but indicated that key components would be independence and an international aspect.
“Those of us charged with political responsibility must agree and deliver a process that is meaningful and substantive,” he said.
“There is an onus on all political leaders to promote this.”