The government is looking at the possibility of a South African style truth and reconciliation commission for Northern Ireland.
Paul Murphy said a number of options were being looked at
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."
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.
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.
is: Can there be transitional
justice and what are people's
interpretation of justice?
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."