Belfast Telegraph

Victims' group in 'frank' talks with Karen Bradley

Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Kenny Donaldson of SEFF
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Members of a victims' group have had a "very frank" meeting with the Secretary of State.

Karen Bradley met relatives to update them on the legacy consultation and possible next steps.

Representatives of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) described the meeting with Mrs Bradley and her officials as "very frank and robust".

The Government is currently sifting through more than 17,000 responses to its Stormont House Agreement consultation on dealing with the Troubles, which closed last October after five months.

It has said it will publish its next steps "shortly".

Speaking following yesterday's meeting in Belfast, SEFF's director Kenny Donaldson said they pressed Mrs Bradley on various issues such as the lack of contribution from the Republic of Ireland to disclose evidence to the Historical Enquiries Team.

Mr Donaldson added: "We raised the immoral and unsustainable victims' definition and provided her with proposals on how the matter could be dealt with.

"We again raised our fundamental objections against the Historical Investigations Unit as it is currently constructed in the Draft Bill.

"Within all of our discussions we reiterated our deep frustration that the UK Government in failing to exert pressure on the Republic of Ireland state."

Mr Donaldson said many victims were "open to doing business".

"Our objective has always been the furtherance of a genuine peace and reconciled society - that cannot and will not happen without accountability of the past and the acceptance by two states, the terrorist organisations and their political annexes that in the context of the Troubles criminal violence was wrong and wholly unjustified.

"No legacy legislation can go forward minus community confidence, and presently it's not there," concluded Mr Donaldson.

Mrs Bradley said afterwards that it had been "an enormous privilege" to hear the stories and perspectives of organisations and individuals "working tirelessly to support victims and survivors of the Troubles".

"I updated them on the legacy consultation," she said.

"We received over 17,000 responses to the consultation and I am grateful to all who took the time to respond.

"We are rightly taking the time to consider all responses. We hope to announce next steps shortly."

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