The Victims and Survivors Forum expressed their thanks to representatives of NI political parties for their ‘open and honest’ feedback during recent discussions on legacy issues.
The members found the engagements meaningful and insightful and are grateful for the honest analysis of the current status of legacy discussions from each of the five main parties. The members also reiterated their commitment to working with political parties to help progress the Stormont House Agreement mechanisms for the benefit of all society, not just victims and survivors. The Forum shared their hope with political representatives that any political impediment can be overcome with empathy, compassion and a shared common purpose and asked them to work to this end.
The Forum members, who are broadly representative of victims and survivors of the NI conflict, met representatives from Northern Ireland’s five main political parties last week to discuss a range of issues including how measures for dealing with the past in the Stormont House Agreement could be progressed. The political parties acknowledged that there is a particular strength, authenticity and authority to the collective voice of the Forum as it is broadly representative of victim experience.
Forum members also asked the political representatives about the status of the mental trauma services, the pension for severely injured victims and survivors as well as how dialogue around dealing with the past could be more inclusive. The consultation on draft legislation for legacy mechanisms including the Historical Investigations Unit was also discussed, with the Forum advising the political representatives on how to make the consultation process for legacy mechanisms as effective as possible.
Convening the Forum is the responsibility of the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Judith Thompson. She expressed her hope that Tuesday’s event will be the first of many:
“Tuesday’s meetings were about starting honest conversations between Forum members and representatives from NI’s main political parties. It was the first time that the new Forum met politicians face-to-face and they used the opportunity to set out their purpose and discuss their views on dealing with the past. The Forum anticipate that there will be many more meetings like this in the future, so that their voice will be heard by governments and politicians, including the Northern Ireland Office, who have high levels of influence. Their immediate next step is to request to meet the Secretary of State to ensure that all the mechanisms of the Stormont House Agreement are delivered and that any prospective consultation will be accessible, meaningful and inclusive”
The Commissioner continued:
“The political representatives who met the Forum acknowledged that the group is rich in diversity and reflects the reality of the NI conflict, yet is unified in its purpose. It was also recognised that the group speaks with moral authority, and has the coherence to challenge delays and keep the pressure on those in power.”
The following political representatives met the Forum: David Ford MLA, Alliance; Dolores Kelly MLA and Alex Attwood, SDLP; Sean Murray, John Loughran (SPAD) and Linda Dillon, Sinn Fein, Doug Beattie MLA and Alan Chambers MLA, UUP; and Emma Little-Pengelly MP, DUP.