Northern Ireland news

NI Secretary of State James Brokenshire says dealing with legacy of troubles 'a priority'

James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Lesley-Anne McKeown and Ed Carty, Press Association


NORTHERN Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said that dealing with the legacy of the north's troubled past was a priority.

But the recently appointed minister told the British-Irish Association that a balance must be struck between providing comprehensive disclosure to families and his obligations to protect lives.

Mr Brokenshire said: "I believe that the so-called legacy bodies set out in the Stormont House Agreement continue to provide the most effective way to make progress on this hugely sensitive but hugely important issue."

The Conservative MP told delegates he was moved by the experiences of Troubles victims he has met during his first weeks in office and is keen for the establishment of the historical investigations unit, the independent commission for information retrieval, the implementation and reconciliation group and the oral history archive.

"I want to have these bodies up and running as quickly as possible," he added.

"But the bodies will only work if they can command support and confidence from across the community."

Mr Brokenshire's remarks on legacy come after Northern Ireland's most senior judge called for political leaders to agree on funding for Troubles-related inquests.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan warned that delays to the backlog of cases could mean further devastation for grieving families.

Meanwhile, on tackling paramilitary activity, Mr Brokenshire said he hoped the Independent Reporting Commission could play a key role in confronting the scourge of such activity.

He said: "Those engaged in what is often described as paramilitary activity serve no political cause. They commit crime using the cloak of paramilitarism to line their own pockets.

"They use intimidation and fear to power and exert influence within their communities. They hold communities back, deterring investment and jobs and preventing people from moving forward with their lives.

"They were never justified in the past, and they are not justified today and they should disband. So the measures in the Fresh Start Agreement are only a beginning.

"And they will rightly be judged on whether they make a difference where it matters... on the ground. But working with the Executive and the Irish Government I'm determined to make progress.

"We cannot tolerate cold-blooded murder in alleyways masquerading as justice. It has to stop... and these groups must be put out of business for good."

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