Belfast Telegraph

Political agendas will only hide the truths of our past

Dealing with legacy issues is far too important to be left to governments and political parties, says Mark Thompson

Any move to hold discussions concerning dealing with the past is a positive step. Discussions must include the range of views that goes beyond the existing political framework.

This issue is far too important to be left only to governments and political parties.

It is patently evident that a proper independent truth process is the only viable option. International experience also tells us that this is the only way forward.

Relatives for Justice has set out clearly its position over the past decade on the need for such a process. It must be independent of the vested interests held by all parties to the conflict - which includes the role of the British Government.

Obviously the Government needs to be instrumental in facilitating and agreeing to any future process that deals with the past. As does the Irish government.

However, as a main protagonist to the conflict the British Government, through its northern secretary, cannot seek to abdicate its core responsibility in terms of its role in the conflict, while also presenting the matter as one solely for the political parties and society here.

Owen Patterson's positioning - as outlined in the Belfast Telegraph this week - is disingenuous and could well be seen as displaying bad faith from the outset.

The British Government is not an honest broker on this matter. This view is now held beyond the nationalist community, given disclosures in recent years about collusion.

A successful process can only be arrived at through an honest process of dialogue and discussion and a starting point is acknowledgement of the roles played by everyone. Discussions must also involve those bereaved and injured as a result of the conflict.

We also want the Irish government to initiate discussions on dealing with the past.

This must contribute to any wider process across the island, given the conflict was not confined to the north.

However, it is important to remember that the British Government and the main political parties rejected the proposals by the Consultative Group on the Past, chaired by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley.

These proposals reflected a genuine process of engagement and consultation across the community and offered the best opportunity thus far for dealing with the past and, in our view, the proposed Legacy Commission should form the starting point of future discussions on which to build.

The past is very much still present and it will have an impact on our collective future.

This is evidenced almost daily in that information continues to emerge and there is a growing demand for truth and justice by the bereaved and injured from across the community, which will not be easily brushed away as some have hoped.

Attempts to stymie the office of the Police Ombudsman through external interference, or to present the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team (HET) as independent, have not worked. The piecemeal approach is not acceptable, either.

The bereaved and injured demand better and society requires better. Governments here, in London and Dublin need to do more on this issue and facilitate the right approach - in spite of their obvious resistance. They need to do the right thing this time for the right reasons, rather than acting in self-interest.

A truth process will obviously present its own difficulties, but this is the only way forward. Otherwise, the continued leaking of 'information' and accusation - of who did what to whom - as others peddle disinformation and seek to distract from the truth will continue to be exploited by vested interests playing out their agendas in public.

Last year, the UN announced that they were to create the office of a Special Rapporteur on Truth and are this year to formally appoint a rapporteur.

Relatives for Justice hopes to involve that office in making a positive contribution to addressing truth here - in the interests of all those bereaved and injured during the conflict.

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