Naomi Long MP said: “Over the past week, we have seen how the past continues to cast a long shadow over our future, reasserting itself in ways and at times of its own choosing, and that will continue if we do not address the issue. Consensus must be built to ensure that we address the legacy of the past in a comprehensive way which not only addresses the needs of victims and survivors of the Troubles but can also do so in a way which promotes reconciliation and a shared future.
“I am calling on the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, to convene talks as soon as possible amongst parties here to get started on agreeing a way forward. He has acknowledged that political consensus is required to take the process forward and that, on this most sensitive of issues, such consensus will be hard to achieve. I don’t disagree with that analysis, but it’s also clear that such consensus will not simply emerge of its own accord. Rather, it needs to be actively pursued with local parties and I believe the Secretary of State has a duty to drive that process forward. Convening a meeting with local political parties would be a good starting point.
“Northern Ireland has made much progress towards peace, but we cannot afford to be complacent about the past. Time does not heal all wounds and the passage of time alone will not make the past less controversial, less painful or remove its potential to destabilise communities. There is a wealth of international evidence that this is the case in post-conflict regions. Here, with each passing year, many of those directly affected simply feel the opportunity to know even the basic truth of what happened to their loved ones, let alone see justice done, slipping from their grasp.
“Sadly, the controversy which surrounded the proposed £12,000 recognition payment entirely overshadowed the rest of the Eames-Bradley Report, which whilst not perfect, provided a credible basis on which a process could be built. The central recommendation for a legacy commission with four separate elements of reconciliation, investigations, information recovery and thematic issues, offered a structure which could give coherence to those elements of existing good practice, such as the work of the Historical Enquiries Team, the Community Relations Council, and Commission for Victims and Survivors, and in a context focused on building a shared future. It would also underpin the valuable work done by those community and voluntary groups who offer vital practical support to victims and survivors.
“The past must be addressed in an inclusive and comprehensive way for the sake of victims and survivors, and for the good of wider society, so that the more prosperous, hopeful and shared future for which we are working can be built on truly stable foundations. The time to do this is now and I am calling on Owen Paterson to convene party talks on this most important of issues as soon as possible.”