Victims Commission ‘must clarify Haass submission’

Dr Richard Haass and professor Meghan O'Sullivan
Dr Richard Haass and professor Meghan O'Sullivan

A victims group has challenged the Victims Commission to reveal details of how it described Troubles-related violence to the Haass talks team.

Innocent Victims United (IVU) said it is unacceptable that the final draft of the Haass proposals refers to “actors” in a “conflict” rather than terrorists “motivated by ethnic and sectarian hatreds”.

IVU spokesman Kenny Donaldson said it was important the Commission for Victims and Survivors (CVSNI) publicly acknowledged that “those involved in the violence and those who sustained the conditions for violence” acted “without justification”.

Mr Donaldson also said the Commission should explain why the term “terrorism” does not appear in a submission document produced by the CVSNI’s “Dealing With the Past” sub-group.

“Has the Commission received a directive from OFMDFM forbidding the use of the term within all written policy documents and other literature connected to its work or is there another explanation?” he said.

A spokeswoman for the CVSNI responded saying it had published the paper submitted to the Haass team on its website.

“As part of our ongoing consultations with the widest cross-section of victims and survivors groups and individuals, we are also hosting a further conference on Dealing with the Past, at the Stormont Hotel on February 25. All victims groups are invited to attend and this will afford a full opportunity to input their views to the Commission,” she said.

In a statement posted on the Conservative Party’s website yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said it was important the Haass process must “not be the end of the road”.

Ms Villiers said “the momentum needs to be maintained”, and added: “None of the parties have so far said they will walk away.

“All of them acknowledge that there are important elements of the Haass proposals which they can support. It is now vital that the political parties get back round the table and continue to strive for an agreed way forward.”

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said the leaders of the two main unionist parties should make it clear whether they are recommending acceptance of the Haass proposals.

The Deputy First Minister said: “People deserve to know the answers to these simple questions. We are elected to sort out these matters and seek resolutions. Over six months’ work went into these proposals.”