A story-telling archive possibly based on the site of the former Maze prison could be the way forward in dealing with the legacy of the Troubles, Peter Robinson has said.
The First Minister suggested there is a strong consensus around the proposal of a story-telling archive and warned against victims being “retraumatised” by a more formal process.
And he said he hoped to see progress in terms of the commission to oversee development of the Maze in the next few days.
“The victims have the right to tell their stories and in many cases have been denied that opportunity so far,” he said.
His comments came after he led a DUP delegation to meet Secretary of State Owen Paterson, who is holding a series of meetings with the political parties on how to handle the past.
Both the DUP leader and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, who met Mr Paterson separately, welcomed assurances that the Government is not considering a truth commission or an amnesty.
Mr Robinson gave a firm no to any form of amnesty or a truth commission mechanism, but indicated he would say yes to an archive allowing victims to tell their stories.
“We have talked about that even at the new centre we are building at the Maze/Long Kesh site,” he said.
But he also added: “Whatever we might do in relation to the past cannot take away people’s right to expect justice.”
Standing with deputy leader Nigel Dodds, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, Mr Robinson added: “We are all mature enough to listen to people's own angle of vision on the past. The real difficulty is if you expect us to have a definitive view on what happened in the past, that is simply not going to happen.”
Sinn Fein, however, which has still to meet Mr Paterson in the current round of talks, said it would continue to push for a truth recovery mechanism.
Assembly Member Mitchel McLaughlin said: “I think we really have to approach this on the basis of all the participants being prepared to participate in a truth recovery process.
“For some I know that will be insufficient, but there's no question of anyone feeling they've had justice unless they've got the truth.”
He added: “Perhaps our biggest difficulty at the end of the day is not the DUP, but the British Government, who appear adamant that none of their agencies are going to contribute to establishing the truth.
“We have seen in their dealings with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that they spend hundreds of millions of pounds making it difficult for people to find the truth.”
Following his meeting, however, Mr Allister said: “From what he told us his (Mr Paterson’s) mind is set against an amnesty, which is good — that would be a total travesty.
“He indicates he's set against any miscalled truth commission — that's good because it will only be abused and misused by those incapable of telling the truth who would want to use it to rewrite history and they are, of course, the victim-makers.
“But in terms of justice for innocent victims, I must say I don't see us much closer to that and I made the point very strongly to him that is because there's a vested interest in the political establishment (at Stormont) in maintaining the status quo.”