Belfast Telegraph

Relatives left 'sceptical' over public consultation into legacy of Troubles

By Victoria Leonard and David Young

Relatives of people killed in the Troubles have said they are "sceptical" of the new public consultation on the past.

The long-delayed consultation around proposals to deal with legacy issues was unveiled yesterday amid a political row over the exclusion of an amnesty for security force members.

The four-month public process will seek to canvass views on a series of new mechanisms to investigate, document and uncover the truth around killings during the 30-year conflict.

But some victims' families have branded some of the proposals "naive".

Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was killed at Kingsmill, raised concerns over the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), which would take forward outstanding Troubles-related deaths from the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team, the Police Ombudsman's Historical Investigations Directorate and Troubles-related deaths from April 11, 1998, to March 31, 2004.

The HIU would aim to deal with all 1,700 outstanding deaths in just five years.

"It seems naive to think they can deal with 1,700 deaths in that space of time," Mr Worton said.

"Anything that helps victims move on and get closure is good, but there have been so many panels set up about legacy and nothing ever seems to come out of them. The whole thing seems like a talking shop.

"It's hard to be optimistic, we've been here that many times. I live to be proven wrong."

Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was killed in the 1987 Enniskillen bombing, said a "clear definition of victims" needed to be made as part of the proposed Oral History Archive (OHA) project to "prevent accounts of victims and terrorists being placed alongside each other".

The consultation document states that "anyone who has been touched by the Troubles would be able to share their memories and tell their stories and have these recorded in the archive", including "former paramilitaries".

"Both the Enniskillen bomb and Loughgall happened in 1987 - if they didn't make a distinction, victims and terrorists could be placed alongside together in the archive," Mr Gault added.

"I couldn't accept that as a way forward."

Mr Gault added that he would have preferred to see a proposal for a Statute of Limitations to prevent the prosecution of soldiers who served in the Troubles included in the consultation.

But, speaking yesterday, Secretary of State Karen Bradley insisted there was "no support" in the region for a "Northern Ireland only statute of limitations".

"The people have been very clear to me in Northern Ireland - the way to address the legacy of the past, the way to address the legacy of the Troubles is for people to go through this process of understanding what happened, for victims to find out the truth and to see justice being done," she said.

"That is what people have been clear they want, they don't want to draw a line in the sand and pretend it never happened - they want to deal with it this way and that's what I support."

Mrs Bradley also defended the Prime Minister's controversial claim earlier this week that only ex-security force members are currently being investigated over Troubles killings, insisting it was not an attempt to interfere with the region's justice system.

The consultation is based on a blueprint agreed by the Stormont parties and UK and Irish governments in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

The implementation of the agreed mechanisms has been delayed amid the current political impasse.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "I am glad the Government has now published the consultation. It is vital that the voice of victims is at the centre of this process and that their views shape the outcome."

She added: "Several decades have passed since many of the events which occurred during the Troubles. Victims are getting older and we owe it to them to make progress quickly."

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said: "While today's publication of the draft bill is welcomed, it is already long overdue.

"Victims should not have had to wait so long to get to this stage.

"They should not have had to see so many false promises from the British Government come and go during that period."

Belfast Telegraph

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