The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors is calling on the British and Irish governments and NI politicians to deliver the institutions as agreed in the Stormont House Agreement and demonstrate their commitment to victims and survivors.
Judith Thompson, Commissioner for Victims and Survivors said:
“Members of the previous Victims and Survivors Forum played an active role in proposals for dealing with the past that were included in the Stormont House Agreement. In 2015, the Forum members agreed overarching key guiding principles for the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement institutions that stated that all mechanisms that deal with the past should be managed on the principles of co-design and collaboration, be victim-centred, independent, impartial, inclusive and fit for purpose”.
The Commissioner went on to say that recent high level commentary around dealing with the past needs to be considered within the context of the Stormont House Agreement:
“In recent weeks there have been high profile reports published around very specific issues which can be divisive and take the emphasis off getting a comprehensive approach to dealing with legacy issues for all victims and survivors.”
Judith Thompson reports the consensus of opinion was that these public pronouncements, while individually well-meaning, have actually been distracting rather than constructive.
“While we recognise there will always be differences of opinion when it comes to Northern Ireland’s past, we feel that these discussions should not allow us to be distracted from the urgent needs of victims and survivors.”
“Our newly appointed Forum Members have managed to put their differences aside to tackle uncomfortable truths, and we are calling on our politicians to replicate their bravery and integrity and do the same.
“We fully appreciate that the biggest stumbling block is the discomfort that will be felt by governments, security services and previous combatants in revealing what has happened in the past, but now it is time for action no matter what level of discomfort it brings,” she said.
The Commissioner is clear that the newly appointed Forum Members appreciate the complexities of all victims and survivors, their backgrounds, needs and their expectations. As a result their over-riding priority is that the events of the past must not happen again.
“The mechanisms that have been agreed should now be put in place for victims and survivors from all backgrounds to seek truth, justice, acknowledgement, reconciliation and reparations, according to their individual wishes. All they need is the political will and bravery to put them into action,” the Commissioner concluded.
Following the general election in June, the Forum will be seeking to meet with both the British and Irish governments and local political parties to assist in whatever way they can with progressing dialogue on legacy issues.