Belfast Telegraph

Victims call on NIO to launch delayed legacy consultation process

By Angela Rainey

Time is running out for the Secretary of State to start a consultation on arrangements to deal with the past, victims' campaigners said yesterday.

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson and the Victims and Survivors Forum said action must be taken now to push the issue back up the political agenda.

Members of the forum said they fear that, come next year, the consultation will be overshadowed by Brexit negotiations.

Originally a date had been set for September but then moved to October, before Secretary of State James Brokenshire then pushed back the deadline to January.

Ms Thompson said the clock is now ticking and was "at a critical stage".

Member of the forum Paul Gallagher, who was the victim of a 1994 UFF shooting, said the government's "excuses are wearing thin".

"It is imperative that the Secretary of State brings forward the long-awaited consultation on the legacy mechanisms of the Stormont House Agreement," he said.

"Victims and survivors have been waiting on the implementation of this agreement since Christmas 2014 - three years ago. We are all versed in the various excuses that have been put forward as to why we continue to wait.

"A lack of political consensus and the logjam around national security are but two, but these excuses are now wearing thin. No more can we afford to be patient.

"Family members who were promised full and independent investigations into the killings of their loved ones are dying off as the years go by and this cannot be allowed to continue.

"Others who seek a form of truth and the opportunity to have their stories heard have been met with political platitudes."

Mr Gallagher said Mr Brokenshire is aware that the consultation can go ahead without an Executive in place as "the legislation is Westminster-based" but "there is still no sign" of progress.

Members of the forum plan to meet the Shadow Secretary of State, Owen Smith, in January.

A government spokesperson said: "The government wants to consult soon but wants this to happen at a time that will best build support and confidence in the new legacy institutions from across the community.

"The Secretary of State is reflecting carefully on the next steps for taking forward a consultation."

Belfast Telegraph

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