Beattie: NIO lost on how to deal with legacy of Troubles
The Northern Ireland Office appears to be "totally lost" on the issue of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles, an Ulster Unionist has said.
Doug Beattie MLA said his party had made numerous requests to meet the NIO team on legacy, one of the main stumbling blocks in talks to restore Stormont.
He said the UUP wanted to discuss a public consultation on legacy issues, a pension for innocent victims and a statute of limitations that has been proposed for soldiers involved in Troubles killings. However, Mr Beattie accused the NIO of avoiding his party.
"They have ducked and dived to the extent that the only conclusion I can draw is that they are so totally lost on legacy that they are avoiding such a meeting," he said.
"Their reluctance to meet could well be because the side deals they were busy doing with the DUP and Sinn Fein will now have to be backtracked and removed as part of any public consultation. We need to know when the NIO plans to finally release the consultation to allow the public to have their say.
"Will the issue of pensions form part of the consultation? The Ulster Unionists have long argued that it should. And has the statute of limitations been removed from the consultation at the request of Sinn Fein?
"Of course, I wouldn't have to draw conclusions or surmise if the Northern Ireland Office would actually meet with us on legacy to provide clarification on the questions we have."
In response, a spokesperson for the NIO said that the next stage on addressing legacy issues was a public consultation.
"During party political talks, there have been constructive discussions on how the Stormont House Agreement legacy institutions could operate to help provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the Troubles," the NIO stated.
"As part of our work to implement the Stormont House Agreement, we would ensure that the new legacy institutions would be under legal obligations to be balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable.
"The government believes that the next phase is to consult publicly on the details of how the new institutions could work in practice. A public consultation would provide everyone with an interest the opportunity to see the proposals and contribute to the discussion on the issues.
"The government is committed to making progress on addressing the legacy of the past and will continue to speak to the Northern Ireland political parties on this issue."