Dealing with past requires dealing with loyalists: Billy Hutchinson
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has said a legacy process that is formulated without loyalists is doomed to fail.
The Belfast councillor believes that when it comes to addressing the past greater effort is needed to involve his party, which historically has been aligned with the UVF.
Speaking ahead of today's PUP conference, Mr Hutchinson said it was "nonsense" to talk of resolving legacy issues without involving both victims and perpetrators.
The PUP leader issued a statement last week in which he said loyalists needed to be involved in the "design and implementation" of a process for dealing with the past. He said "anything less than formal inclusion" of loyalists would be unacceptable.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire subsequently signalled that he would be 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.
However, Mr Hutchinson said he wants the engagement to go further than "just a phone call".
"It's a bit of nonsense to talk about legacy and not allow people to properly engage," he told The Irish News.
"I'm not talking about paramilitaries but the political parties who can speak for them – they need to be involved in this."
The PUP leader said to date his party had been excluded from the process and warned that such an approach meant it would not succeed.
"If somebody goes off and builds a process without including those people who were the perpetrators or those people who were the victims then it isn't going to work," he said.
"We've been excluded from the mechanisms but they will expect loyalists to take part in the mechanisms, but you can't do that – you need to get people involved so they know what they're supposed to be and what's going to happen."
The Belfast councillor was disparaging of what has been characterised by the Northern Ireland Office as a consultation with stakeholders.
"People telling me they're going to consult with me but then giving me a piece of information is not consultation – information and consultation are two different things," he said.
"We want a consultative process that involves everybody and we're not just arguing for loyalists, we're arguing for victims."