Simon Hoare MP is Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee
One hundred days was the self-imposed deadline for the Government to introduce legislation to implement the Stormont House Agreement to address Troubles legacy cases following the January 9 deal that restored the Executive.
One hundred days later, there was no new legislation dealing with legacy issues, just a March 18 decree in the form of a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS).
For the victims of the Troubles, a decree was how it seemed. Imperfect though it was, Stormont House set a framework to deal with the past and sought the views of victims' groups, NI politicians and the Irish Government. The March 18 WMS came, to many, from out of the blue.
Witnesses to our Committee's inquiry were consistent in their criticism of the lack of detail and consultation accompanying proposals.
More than seven months after the vague new proposals were published, we await any further details. If the Government paused progress to concentrate on the coronavirus pandemic, it did so without communicating that it was stopping work on legacy policy.
Yet, in withholding this information they are potentially fuelling suspicion that some favoured parties are being briefed on plans while others are not. The lack of clarity on what the proposals mean for victims and their families means that their anguish continues. That state of affairs has potentially grave repercussions for building trust on legacy issues.
The Irish Government response to the WMS was tepid, stating that changes to Stormont House need to be agreed by all parties. Some cases would be greatly facilitated by Irish co-operation. Whatever its previous level of co-operation, Ireland had signed-up to Stormont House, only for the UK to move the goalposts with minimal warning. If history tells us anything, it is that progress on peace is made through consensus-building and agreement. Trust is the key currency. The Government's change of approach without consultation was counterproductive.
Not everyone will be happy with the outcome, but the goal must be to alight on a process that minimises opposition and maximises support across the community. That can be achieved only by nurturing trust and meaningful engagement. In this respect, Operation Kenova appears to be an exemplar of good practice.
The Government must return to its collaborative approach, and it must urgently make time to properly address legacy cases; it cannot hide behind Covid-19. With every passing year, investigators must reach ever further back into the past in order to uncover the truth. Families deserve better.