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McGuinness berates British government over lack of legacy engagement

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness says the British government isn't serious about resolving legacy issues. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

SINN Féin has accused the British government of lacking the resolve to break the impasse over legacy issues.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called for a "short, intensive dialogue" but said he was sceptical that Downing Street would react positively to his latest intervention.

The Foyle MLA's remarks came as Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson ruled out support for a legacy process that loyalists did not help formulate.

"It is our firm belief that loyalists, as major protagonists in the recent conflict, will not under any circumstances support any legacy process which does not include them in its design and implementation," the west Belfast councillor said.

"We emphasise that anything less than formal inclusion in the key stages of legacy processes will not be acceptable to loyalism."

Despite a commitment in last November's Fresh Start agreement to resolve legacy issues, little or no progress has been made over the past 11 months.

Republicans and the British government have blamed each other for the impasse, with the former joining the SDLP and Irish government in criticising a national security clause in the proposed legislation that would limit disclosure.

Mr McGuinness said he was making a "last ditch attempt" to get the British government to the talks table.

"Unfortunately we are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the British government isn’t serious – and never was serious – about resolving the outstanding legacy issues which were not concluded in the Fresh Start agreement," he said.

"It is our view those issues could be resolved through a short, intensive dialogue and we have made repeated requests to the British government to enter into such a process."

The deputy first minister said he had made direct requests to Prime Minister Theresa May and Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said the British government was committed to establishing new legacy bodies and that there had been numerous meetings aimed at resolving the issue.

The spokesman said the secretary of state wanted the legacy bodies up and running as quickly as possible and believed the process would benefit from "a more public phase".

“It is important that the public have their say to build confidence in the new bodies so that they can get on with their work from the outset and make a difference for those people we have a duty to help but these bodies will only work if they can command support and confidence from across the entire community," the spokesman said.

The NIO also released a short statement from the secretary of state in which he said he was happy to meet political representatives of loyalist communities, including the PUP.

"I've been largely focused on meeting victims and survivors and community groups, and I want that to include loyalist communities," Mr Brokenshire said.

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