Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson is optimistic on reaching agreement for dealing with the past

The scene at McGurk's bar where a UVF bomb in 1971 killed 15 people

The Victims Commissioner says she is "cautiously optimistic" that Stormont can put measures in place for dealing with the past in the immediate aftermath of the assembly election.

Judith Thompson said the two governments and parties involved in last year's Fresh Start negotiations "came a lot closer than perhaps people think" to finding a resolution and that work aimed at putting formal legacy structures in place was continuing.

Speaking ahead of a conference today that will act as a mid-term review of the strategy for Victims and Survivors 2009-19, Ms Thompson said the "planets are aligned" and that a rare opportunity existed to address the past.

She said a "cluster of measures" for dealing with the past were spelled out in 2014's Stormont House agreement and that legislation had been drafted, funding allocated and people were working on setting up the relevant institutions.

"We are in a position where if this goes over the line politically then implementation could follow fairly quickly," she said.

"However, if we miss the momentum of this opportunity then all those things that are lined up at the moment won't stay there forever and it would take u s a long time to get back to this point."

Ms Thompson said agreement could be secured with "a bit of will to compromise on the part of all parties."

"Yes our politicians need to be brave enough to implement these measures but let's be fair, our voters can hold them back or help them forward," she said.

"So it's up to everybody to think about how we can deal with the past without in a way that doesn't pollute the future and victims and survivors need to be at the centre of this – they want this to happen."

The commissioner said the British government's national security veto could not be a "convenient rock under which the government can hide uncomfortable issues."

"Neither can there be an excuse for anyone refusing to come forward to cooperate with the proposed new Historical Investigation Unit or Independent Commission for Information Retrieval," she said


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