Foster’s call for Government to move quickly over legacy issues is welcomed by victims
Victims' groups last night welcomed a call by DUP leader Arlene Foster for the Government to make progress on legacy issues before it is too late for survivors.
In remarks directed at the Northern Ireland Office and Secretary of State Karen Bradley, Mrs Foster said: "I entered politics motivated by the carnage that was going on around me.
"'Victims' are talked about as though they are distant.
"But to many of us these are people we went to school with, who were either maimed or bereaved."
Many survivors of atrocities which took place during the Troubles and family members of victims are now elderly.
Lily McDowell, the most seriously burnt survivor of the IRA's bombing of La Mon in 1978, died in 2014 before getting answers over the atrocity.
Three people who were directly impacted by the 1972 Claudy bombings carried out by the IRA have died within the last 12 months.
Mrs Foster revealed she has urged the Government to act now.
"The NIO had previously discussed having a consultation whilst in parallel putting in place the structures from the Stormont House Agreement. That was wrong," she said.
"It was a tick-box-exercise where, regardless of what victims said, their opinion was too little too late. I opposed this.
"The time is now right for the Government to take forward a meaningful consultation which can allow those who have suffered so much to study the detail of its contents.
"Most importantly, victims must be able to see that their opinions will shape what emerges at the other end.
"I have told the Government that there is widespread support across the parties to launch the consultation process."
Her call was welcomed by Innocent Victims United and Ulster Human Rights Watch, which represents some of the La Mon families.
Robert Campbell and Axel Schmidt from Ulster Human Rights Watch said a meaningful consultation needed to take place.
"UHRW has already indicated to representatives of the NIO that they were committed to taking part in the consultation," they said.
"It is believed that a meaningful consultation should enable those who have suffered most from acts of terrorism to be able to have their voices heard, with a view to establishing appropriate investigating bodies that will have the potential to deliver truth, justice and acknowledgement."
Kenny Donaldson from Innocent Victims United said he "broadly welcomed" Mrs Foster's comments.
"Until we see a roadmap which would mean innocent victims/survivors of terrorism having increased prospects of attaining justice, truth and accountability for the grievous wrongs inflicted upon them, we could not and would not back proposed institutions on blind faith," he said.
"Time is running out for many victims/survivors."
Meanwhile, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has also called for legacy and victims' issues concerning military personnel to be handled separately.
"Our soldiers have defended the UK from the threat of terrorism and I understand the concerns many of our service personnel have," he said.
"However, this issue should not need to be included within a consultation on legacy in Northern Ireland.
"There are issues facing personnel from right across the UK. This may be something which is best taken forward at a UK-wide level."