Mike Nesbitt: SF cannot meet challenge on past

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness pictured with masked IRA men at the funeral of Brendan Burns in 1988. Pacemaker Belfast
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness pictured with masked IRA men at the funeral of Brendan Burns in 1988. Pacemaker Belfast

The Ulster Unionist Party welcomes the weekend remarks from Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP, in Oxford,

In it he made clear any new proposals on dealing with the past must be ‘proportionate’.

This is a challenge Sinn Féin cannot meet.

The Secretary of State made clear that any new bodies must act in ways that are fair, balanced, impartial and, to use his words ‘crucially ... proportionate’.

Martin McGuinness’s recent statement makes clear that republicans are taking an entirely unfair, imbalanced, partial position that is anything but proportionate.

In a nutshell Martin McGuinness wants every scrap of paper under the ownership of the PSNI, the Army, MI5 and the Security Services, in return for a vague promise that if anyone thinks he was involved in anything when he was in the IRA, an organisation he says he left in 1974, he’s happy to have a chat.

The Secretary of State says he is considering how to consult the public on the proposals for dealing with the past.

I call on the public to make clear they will not tolerate money being wasted to humour Sinn Féin and their desire to re-write history and invent a fig leaf defence of the IRA’s terrorist campaign.

We are in danger of wasting tens and maybe hundreds of millions of pounds on a process that is doomed to fail, as judged by the government’s own tests of fairness, balance, impartiality and proportionality.

There are other, practical actions we can take to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, like pensions for the severely physically injured and a real commitment to address the toxic poor mental health and wellbeing that blights so many.

Every political party agrees these are issues that need addressed.

The public may soon have the opportunity to leave Sinn Féin in no doubt that it is their intransigence that is forcing people to suffer when a solution is available.

Mike Nesbitt, Ulster Unionist MLA, Leader of the Opposition at Stormont