Northern Ireland news

No rush to meet legacy issue 'artificial deadlines' says Brokenshire

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and First Minister Arlene Foster
David Young, Press Association

THE British government will not rush to artificial deadlines in its effort to resolve a political row over stalled mechanisms for Troubles victims, the secretary of state has said.

James Brokenshire said it was vital to "get it right" on dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland's conflict, rather than make hasty decisions.

His comments came a week before the first anniversary of the Fresh Start Agreement between Stormont's leaders and the British and Irish governments.

While the signatories to that accord hailed it as a new beginning for power-sharing, the deal faced heavy criticism for its failure to address victims' issues.

Last month, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness expressed a desire to find a way forward on the legacy wrangle before the November 17 anniversary. It looks almost certain the date will pass next week with the matters still outstanding.

Mr Brokenshire set out his position after attending a conference on Brexit in Belfast on Thursday.

"I remain committed to ensuring we find that way through to get this right," he said.

"That is about getting it right and that focus, rather than necessarily rushing to artificial deadlines and timescales."

Mr Brokenshire said he did not want to delay progress longer than necessary.

Proposed mechanisms were outlined in a previous political settlement - the Stormont House Agreement of 2014 - but they have not been established.

They are stuck in the starting blocks due to a political wrangle linked to the potential non-disclosure of state papers on national security grounds.

The multimillion-pound package includes a new investigations unit, a truth recovery mechanism, an oral history archive and enhanced funding for Troubles-related inquests.

The national security dispute is primarily between the British government and Sinn Féin, but DUP First Minister Arlene Foster is refusing to sign off on the funding boost for legacy inquests until all the other issues are sorted.

Mr Brokenshire said he wanted to see the process move to a "more public phase" when detailed proposed solutions could be laid out.

He acknowledged that victims and survivors want to see progress.

"I remain committed to seeing that we can achieve that," he said.

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