Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

No consensus reached on moving on from NI Troubles

Stephen Walker
BBC Northern Ireland political reporter

Lord Eames and Denis Bradley
The group is co-chaired by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley

Northern Ireland has not reached a consensus on how to move on from the Troubles, according to an investigation by a group of MPs.

The NI Affairs Committee concluded it was unclear whether a Legacy Commission was needed to deal with the past.

The investigation by MPs comes after Lord Eames and Denis Bradley looked at how Northern Ireland should deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

The committee included members of the DUP, SDLP, and the UUP.

It questioned the role of a suggested Legacy Commission.

If implemented the commission would have taken the place of the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team and any ongoing investigations by the Police Ombudsman.

It had been estimated that such a body would have cost about £170m per year and would require a minimum of five years to carry out its work.

MPs felt it was not clear if such a body would enhance existing groups, or would act as a replacement.

The committee found that neither victims, nor members of paramilitary organisations, were willing to sign up to the idea of a truth and reconciliation process.

"We believe that the proposed mechanisms for truth recovery and thematic investigation do not represent viable courses of action with which families, victims and paramilitaries will engage," it said.

'Amnesty'

"In treading carefully, the consultative group appears to attempt to reconcile two mutually inconsistent positions.

"Despite the group's intentions, the proposals, if enacted as proposed, might well constitute a de facto amnesty.

"Engagement would be achieved only if those who participate in such events, from whatever section of the community they may come, were guaranteed some amnesty in return for their openness and honesty.

"This would be an exceedingly high price to pay and we are not convinced that either Northern Ireland, or the rest of the UK, is ready at present to contemplate such a step.

NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward
MPs said Shaun Woodward was right not to award a Troubles payment

"We believe that the consultative group's proposals in this respect are likely to prove unworkable."

They also warned that Northern Ireland could become overburdened with organisations addressing the Troubles.

"It is not clear that Northern Ireland needs a Legacy Commission when bodies such as the Victims and Survivors Commission and the Historical Enquiries Team are already dealing in different ways with aspects of the legacy of the Troubles," it added.

However, the all-party group recommended that if a commission was established it should be limited to a five-year time span with funding coming from the Executive in Belfast rather than Westminster.

With the remaining recommendations contained in the Eames/Bradley report reliant on the setting up of a Legacy Commission, it is uncertain if any of them will be implemented.

MPs also looked at the definition of victim - an issue that has proved controversial.

The group concluded that it was up to the assembly to establish an accepted understanding of who constituted a victim.

It also said Secretary of State Shaun Woodward was right not to go ahead with a recognition payment of £12,000 which was originally proposed by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley.



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