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‘Informal’ truth body may be the way forward for Northern Ireland

By Noel McAdam

A former Assistant Chief Constable has said Northern Ireland may be ready for an informal truth commission process.

Peter Sheridan said he believed the Office of the First and deputy First Minister could take responsibility for setting it up.

His comments came after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness met senior loyalist paramilitary figures, including UDA leader Jackie McDonald, at a west Belfast Feile an Phobail event.

Mr Sheridan, now chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, also attended the gathering, as well as former Red Hand Commando figure William ‘Plum’ Smith and senior republicans.

In a discussion chaired by Belfast Telegraph journalist Brian Rowan, Mr McGuinness and Mr Smith discussed the IRA and loyalist ceasefires of the early 1990s in detail.

Mr Sheridan said: “If you look at what happened in that room, you had people accepting of each other without necessarily agreeing with each other.

“Both sides were saying: ‘I understand your experience of the last 30 years or so, even if I don’t accept that you are right’, without there being recriminations or |accusations of people telling lies.”

Retired from the PSNI for almost two years, Mr Sheridan said Mr McGuinness had been prepared to accept an assertion by Mr Smith that loyalists had contact with the IRA during the Troubles, without directly challenging it.

But he said the fact that there were some things which both Mr McGuinness and Mr McDonald were not prepared to talk about showed that a formal truth commission would not work.

“I don’t think that should happen because people would say they are not telling the whole truth.

“But OFMDFM should take up responsibility for some informal process,” Mr Sheridan added.

“The fact that those who were once sworn enemies can now come together in the same room to tell their stories, and be listened to, is in stark contrast to the bomb attack in Derry.”

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