Belfast Telegraph

Dawn Purvis: Pursuit of individuals endangers peace process

Either the war is over or it is not. That is the tough decision that has next to be decided in our peace process.

The one-sided pursuit of individual loyalists by the Historical Enquiries Team is destabilising a constituency that has lived up to its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

Regardless of how anyone feels about them, the UVF and Red Hand Commando have decommissioned all their weapons and are working at ways to leave the stage, but the investigations and subsequent arrest of individuals allegedly involved in incidents prior to 1998 are preventing that.

These organisations believe they have a responsibility to their members which continues long after the bombing and shooting stopped. That was to ensure there would be no more violence and no more prisoners.

The work of the HET and of the Police Ombudsman into retrospective murder investigations is providing the rationale for these organisations to remain in existence.

They do so to take responsibility and provide support to individuals that may have carried out acts of violence as instructed by the organisation.

We must find a way to deal with our past that allows all of us: victims/survivors, families, as well as former paramilitaries and prisoners to draw a line.

Finding the answers is not going to be easy. The Consultative Group on the Past came up with a set of recommendations on how we deal with our past in a co-ordinated way. That report now seems to have been shelved by the Secretary of State.

I understand, just as prisoner releases were very difficult for some people in May 2000, the next step may also involve a lot of pain.

It is now time for all politicians from every party in the Assembly to find a way to deal with the legacy of our past.

The UVF and RHC have been and are prepared to explore further mechanisms that will help victims/survivors gain information in relation to the loss of their loved ones.

Building peace was never going to be easy, but it is a prize worth holding onto and building everyday.

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