News Letter
29 May 2012

ULSTER Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt says that if he was a Troubles victim he could “very easily feel like he was an inconvenience” to the recently revealed reconciliation talks led by Sinn Fein.

At the republican party’s annual conference at the weekend, Sinn Fein’s national chairman Declan Kearney gave a “Reconciliation Speech” in which he said the party was “committed to developing an authentic reconciliation process”.

He added: “We are republicans in the tradition of Tone and McCracken, dedicated to a united Ireland, and unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.”

Sinn Fein revealed at the weekend that it has been in such discussions with leading Protestants.

UUP leader Mr Nesbitt responded yesterday that it would be “churlish to criticise anyone engaged in genuine talks about dealing with the past”.

But he added that it would be “equally naive not to have some scepticism about the motives of any political party in its initiatives”.

“Is this project by Sinn Fein for the benefit of Sinn Fein? Is it because individuals in Sinn Fein now have consciences about what they have done in the past?” he asked.

“The only really credible talks about reconciliation at present are those at Stormont. We have seen the breakdown of talks regarding the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) strategy. This is going round in circles because people are dug into positions and are not willing to make the compromises Declan Kearney is taking about.

“If Sinn Fein is looking for a genuine commitment from unionists it is not going to come from secret talks with ‘leading unionist representatives’. It is going to come when Sinn Fein demonstrates with CSI that it is willing to make the compromises that Mr Kearney is talking about.

“If I was an ordinary victim I could very easily believe that I am not welcome in this conversation; I am not allowed to put my name forward for the Victims Forum; I am not included in Sinn Fein’s talks about reconciliation and I am not involved in the CSI talks.

“If I was a victim I could very easily believe that I was an inconvenience to the political process.”

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson called on Sinn Fein to acknowledge the wrongs it committed in the Troubles.

“The starting point for discussions should be in saying ‘sorry’ for the campaign of terror that was waged against the security forces and civilians [by the IRA],” he said

“Everyone acknowledges the hurt of the Troubles. The victims are visible in every constituency. In many of these cases the victims have never seen justice. Therefore a starting point for the healing would be acknowledgment of their suffering. Recognition of those wrongs would heal some of the hurt.”

He asked victims to submit their views on Sinn Fein’s proposals to the DUP, for presentation to government.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the “media hype” over the Sinn Fein talks largely avoided an obvious question: “What is the ultimate goal of what they dress up as ‘reconciliation? To IRA/Sinn Fein ‘reconciliation’ is but a euphemism for Irish unification – the same goal as they pursued with the armalite,” he said,

“They do not seek ‘reconciliation’ within Northern Ireland, but only on an all-Ireland basis.”