Publish draft bill and let victims have say on way forward – Donaldson

The issue of how Northern Ireland deals with the legacy of its past was not tackled in the recent Fresh Start agreement
The issue of how Northern Ireland deals with the legacy of its past was not tackled in the recent Fresh Start agreement

The publication of draft legislation on legacy and victims’ issues would allow “for an informed mature debate” on the subject, Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The DUP MP for Lagan Valley was commenting after groups representing more than 150 families bereaved during the Troubles placed a full-page newspaper advert denouncing a lack of progress on truth recovery mechanisms.

Although the DUP and Sinn Fein reached a political deal through the Fresh Start agreement last month, a consensus on an effective way of dealing with the past was not reached.

In the Irish News advert, jointly taken by the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Justice for the Forgotten, the families accused the government of “abject failure” in addressing the legacy of the Troubles.

They said it is a “sign of the anger, frustration and bitter disappointment felt by the families at the “abject failure” of the politicians in government to implement the legacy proposals set out in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA).

Paul O’Connor of the PFC said: “Further action in support of the right to truth is being planned, including a possible full-page ad in a British daily newspaper. We would be keen to hear from families and NGOs who support these views.”

The groups said the anger and hurt being voiced in the ad is the “tip of a very large iceberg”.

They added: “Families, whether Catholic or Protestant, from both communities, in the privacy of their own homes, are both angry and grieving.”

Mr Donaldson said a potential way forward on legacy issues was contained in the SHA and that his party stood by the provisions that were agreed last year.

“Further progress was made at the more recent talks, and there is now draft legislation giving effect to these proposals. We have repeatedly called for the publication of the draft bill, which could allow an informed mature debate. None of us should fear letting victims and survivors consider these issues and offer their views on how we proceed.”

Mr Donaldson added: “For us, it is key that the 3,000 unsolved murders during the Troubles will be investigated, and whilst some victims also wanted a truth recovery process, this does not grant immunity from prosecution.

“There are also legal issues preventing public disclosure of some information from the Government because of national security, and the need to ensure that those currently attempting to engage in a terrorist campaign are not assisted in their attempts.”