Belfast Telegraph

A solution is possible and there will be something for everyone

By Judith Thompson

As I prepare to take stock of how much progress has been made against the three areas of dealing with the past, improving services and building for the future, it is in the context of how important the recent political talks have been.

Victims and survivors reeled from the crushing disappointment of the Fresh Start which effectively pulled the rug out from under their rightful expectations that the proposed measures under the Stormont House Agreement would be put in place for victims and survivors.

Gut-wrenchingly disappointing as it was, I decided to look again at what had been agreed and why we had been led to believe, right up to the last minute, that there was a solution for those who had suffered so much over the last 40 years.

What I found was that we had not been totally led up the garden path. There was real progress, substance and consensus in what had been discussed. The problem was the final hurdle of agreement on what constituted national security in preventing full disclosure to families.

Once again the needs of victims went into the 'too difficult' box. The difference this time was that the overwhelming desire of the political leaders was to continue to find a resolution.

Having spoken at length to each of the political parties, national government representatives and having facilitated meetings with them and victims and survivor groups, I am of the very clear opinion that we need two things to resolve the deadlock. A clear definition of national security that is understood and accepted and an oversight proposition that builds trust and confidence by as many people as possible.

National security cannot be a convenient rock under which the government can hide uncomfortable issues. Neither can there be an excuse for anyone refusing to come forward to cooperate with the proposed new Historical Investigation Unit or Independent Commission for Information Retrieval.

A workable deal is still very much on the cards and while it will have to wait until after the Assembly elections, I am very clear that if we don't get it now I don't know when we will get any closer to a point where all the pieces are in place.

Doing nothing is not an option. Legacy issues will not go away. Inquests will continue to be backlogged and answers will be few and far between.

I am equally aware that what is on offer will not satisfy everyone but I am content that a solution is possible and there is something for everyone but not everything for everyone.

The Stormont House Agreement must be implemented in full and with the support of a newly replenished Victims Forum, we will put this right at the heart of the new Assembly's Programme for Government.

Judith Thompson is Victims Commissioner

Belfast Telegraph


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