Time to Step Up and Deal With the Past

Putting victims at the centre of the peace process is essential for progress, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Judith Thompson has said.

In an article in this month’s Agenda NI magazine, the Commissioner outlined the key areas on dealing with the past that were included in the Stormont House Agreement but have not been acted upon by Government. These areas of need that are common to victims and survivors are acknowledgement, truth, justice and reparation.

“As we face into the current political impasse I have never been more certain that the future of Northern Ireland is inextricably linked with the need for us to finally step up and deal with the legacy of the past,” the Commissioner said

“We need to take the self-professed determination of all the decision makers to put victims and survivors at the centre of our peace process and make it a reality.

The Commissioner expressed her disappointment that, after the anniversary of the Fresh Start agreement has passed, there was “the realisation that we were no further forward”

“In media interviews I voiced what so many victims had said to me, that they were brought into rooms, given tea and sympathy and nothing more,” she said

“The feeling of disillusionment, hurt and resentment is greater than ever before. And disillusionment regarding the failure to deal with the past undermines confidence in Government, and in our justice institutions, now.”

The Commissioner described the irony of attending an EU sponsored peace conference in Afghanistan “because they wanted to learn the lessons of how we implemented peace here in Northern Ireland.”

“The single most important piece of advice I shared with them was to do what we had failed to do - include specific acknowledgement and reparations measures for victims and survivors in the initial peace deal,” the Commissioner said.

The full article can be read in the February issue of Agenda NI magazine.