Belfast Telegraph

Michelle O'Neill: Stormont talks collapse doesn’t absolve Britain of its responsibilities on legacy issues

By Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein remains determined that the British Government must honour the commitments it made during the recent talks, including on the issue of legacy.

I briefed the Victims Commissioner in the aftermath of the talks collapsing and I will be meeting her again today to discuss the need to move forward in order to properly support victims and survivors.

Specifically, the British Government had agreed to release the funding requested by the Lord Chief Justice to enable his office to pursue a programme of legacy inquests, a process that may finally bring some degree of comfort to grieving families from all communities, some of whom have been waiting almost half-a-century for this most basic of rights.

It also agreed to initiate the pre-legislative consultation process on a draft Bill that would finally give effect to the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in 2014.

And while outstanding issues remain concerning the use of the British 'national security' veto, the 'alternative approaches to the past' section incorporating a 'statute of limitations' or amnesty for British state forces, was to be deleted.

These matters should never have had to be a subject of negotiation in the first place.

They were agreed at Stormont House in 2014 but, rather than honour its implementation, the British Government shamefully used them as political bargaining chips during the intervening years.

In so doing, it used, abused and, in many cases, retraumatised victims and survivors.

Sinn Fein's focus throughout this period has been to secure the implementation of previous agreements and defend the rights of all victims and survivors.

Despite the negative agenda of the British Government, progress on inquest funding and the consultation would have represented important steps forward in that regard.

Therefore, we have been absolutely clear to both Theresa May and the British Secretary of State Karen Bradley that the DUP's collapsing of the talks process does not absolve them of their responsibilities.

Legacy agreements have been outstanding for far too long.

Grieving families have been denied truth and justice for too long. The Lord Chief Justice has been snubbed for too long.

The British Government cannot hide from the truth of its involvement in the conflict here forever. The families who have campaigned tirelessly for so long have made sure of that.

Sinn Fein will continue to stand with those families and all victims and survivors as we demand the full implementation of all agreements, including Stormont House, and the commitments made during the most recent talks.

Belfast Telegraph

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