Theresa Villiers sees progress in resolving the deadlock over Troubles issues
Progress to resolve logjams hindering new schemes to deal with the toxic legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles could be achieved within weeks, Theresa Villiers has said.
The Northern Ireland Secretary denied the impasse had been allowed to drift and said intensive talks involving the region's political leaders would take place through July.
A suite of measures designed to deliver justice or truth recovery are trapped in the starting blocks due to political stalemate.
The 2014 Stormont House Agreement saw consensus reached on the vast majority of issues, but as the mechanisms are part of an inter-linked package, none will be implemented until the final sticking points are ironed out.
The main obstacle centres on a dispute between the Government and Sinn Fein over the extent of official documentation that will be disclosed to families of the bereaved.
"We have made a tremendous amount of progress," insisted Ms Villiers. "We are closer than ever before to reaching a consensus ."
Among the initiatives in cold storage are a new unit to investigate unsolved murders; a truth recovery commission; and academic projects to document the history of the Troubles. The Government is providing £150m to fund the initiatives.
The Government has pledged to disclose all files to the new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), but has insisted it must retain the right to prevent onward dissemination of some papers to relatives on the grounds of national security.
A row over how families could challenge decisions to withhold disclosure remains outstanding, with agreement yet to be reached on the Government's proposal for appeals to go before a High Court judge.
Sinn Fein has accused the Government of using national security as a means to suppress the truth about killings with alleged state involvement.