News Letter
28 February 2012

Unionists and republicans were at odds yesterday over how Northern Ireland’s troubled past should be resolved.

Speaking after talks with Secretary of State Owen Paterson on the matter yesterday, First Minister Peter Robinson said a story-telling archive focused on victims could be established at the former Maze/Long Kesh prison.

Victims have a right to tell their story and in many cases have been denied the opportunity, the DUP leader added.

Mr Robinson accepted that there was not a consensus on what happened in the past.

He said: “The victims have the right to tell their stories and in many cases have been denied that opportunity so far.”

On Sunday he said the re-writing of history by terrorists to portray the security forces as villains will not be allowed to happen.

“What would be the purpose of having a Truth Commission when we know without a doubt that the terrorists will not be coming forward to tell the truth? All you would get, once again, would be the police and army in the dock and history being distorted,” he said.

He adamantly ruled out any type of amnesty for past offences, adding: “The unacceptable and unrealistic proposals of others should not hinder discussions about how the past can be dealt with.”

After meeting Mr Paterson yesterday TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Whatever lip service is paid to justice for victims, there is no quest for such, no appetite to bring the perpetrators to justice, because there is too much vested interest in protecting the disreputable status quo. In fact, innocent victims are an embarrassment to the political establishment, both to those who made them victims and those who brought the victim makers into power.”

The TUV welcomed “the fact that the Secretary of State is opposed to a ‘truth commission’”. However, while it seems there will be no formal amnesty, many victims resent what they see as a de facto amnesty for republicans, he added.

Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin wants to see the British Government play a key part in a truth process.

“Perhaps our biggest difficulty at the end of the day is not the DUP, but the British Government who appear adamant that none of their agencies are going to contribute to establishing the truth,” he said. “We have seen in their dealings with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry they spend hundreds of millions of pounds making it difficult for people to find the truth.”

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told Mr McLaughlin yesterday that any truth process would also have to involve allegations of collusion between the Irish state and the IRA.