Northern Ireland news

Charlie Flanagan: Progress on Troubles issues may happen 'shortly'

Foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan. Picture by Hugh Russell
Staff Reporters

POLITICIANS "owe it to victims" to resolve issues around the legacy of the Troubles, the Republic's foreign affairs minister has said.

Charlie Flanagan was speaking after he held talks with First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Secretary of State James Brokenshire at Stormont House yesterday.

He said he hoped progress would be achieved "shortly".

"It behoves both governments and the Executive here in Belfast to ensure we stretch ourselves to finding an accommodation on the issues," he said.

"We owe it to victims, we owe it to families, we owe it to communities, and I don't underestimate the challenge but I do believe we cannot continue to stall this matter for the foreseeable future."

Justice minister Claire Sugden also took part in the quarterly review meeting to assess the implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Brokenshire said "good progress" had been made on implementing the agreements.

But Mr McGuinness insisted the British government is not serious about dealing with the legacy of the past.

"The British government is clearly not prepared to face up to the real issues being raised by families whose loved ones were murdered by the state and its agencies," he said.

"The Lord Chief Justice has asked for the funds for legacy inquests to be released immediately and the British government has a responsibility to do that."

Proposed mechanisms to address the needs of victims and an accompanying multi-million pound government funding package remain stuck in the starting blocks owing to a wrangle linked to the potential non-disclosure of UK state papers on national security grounds.

The package agreed by Stormont leaders and the British and Irish governments, which includes a new investigations unit, a truth recovery mechanism, an oral history archive and enhanced funding for Troubles-related inquests, will not become reality until the logjam is cleared.

Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson said yesterday that victims and survivors felt "utterly disillusioned" by the failure to reach agreement on how to deal with the past.

But she said the issue can still be addressed.

"It's going to require a lot of courage on all parts because what will come out through the proper investigation of these 2,000 deaths is not going to be comfortable for anybody," she said.

"But the consequences of not doing it are very, very far reaching and will bring us back to this point again at some point."

Meanwhile, Mr Flanagan yesterday announced funding worth more than €1 million to 60 organisations working in support of peace and reconciliation.

"I want to congratulate the organisations who are being awarded funding in this second round of funding in 2016," he told the annual Reconciliation Networking Forum in East Belfast.

"This funding is just one aspect of the Irish government's ongoing commitment to supporting those who are working so hard to build a reconciled society."

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