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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 19:28 GMT 20:28 UK
Truth forum may be considered
Paul Murphy said a number of options were being looked at
The government is looking at the possibility of a South African style truth and reconciliation commission for Northern Ireland.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy said a commission was one of a number of possibilities the government was prepared to consider in order to draw a line under Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Mr Murphy said that, while the needs of victims must be taken care of, what was most important was an agreement on how to proceed to the future.

His comments on Tuesday came in the wake of a suggestion by Chief Constable Hugh Orde that a type of truth and reconciliation process may be needed to bring closure to the past.

Mr Orde said: "There needs to be something that gives everyone an opportunity to say their piece, to get the best explanation they can on what happened to their families, their loved ones, so that they can then get on with their lives."

However, he said it would not be satisfactory for everyone.

"I've met families that want a wide spectrum of outcomes, be it revenge - or at the other end - simple understanding, with no blame attached," he said.

"It's a debate which is partly academic, it's partly practical but it does need to happen."

Chief Constable Huge Orde
Hugh Orde: Suggested truth forum

A truth and reconciliation forum was set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid. It granted amnesty to many of those whose testimonies it heard.

However, there has been a mixed reaction to the suggestion from victims.

William Frazer from the victims' group, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, said a truth recovery process was a "non-starter".

"South Africa and Northern Ireland are two different countries, two different issues," he said.

He said justice had never been easy to achieve.

"The chief constable has a right to discuss law and order, but he has not got the right to give judgment on justice. Justice belongs to the people," he said.

Mark Thompson from the group, Relatives for Justice, said the chief constable had acknowledge that the past had to be dealt with.

"The question is: Can there be transitional justice and what are people's interpretation of justice?

"For us it's not necessarily convictions, it's very much an understanding of what took place.

"In general terms many families across the community need to know the facts that happened which allows them to come to terms with their bereavement."

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