Northern Ireland

Archbishop Eamon Martin suggests religious leaders could help develop 'truth recovery process' to address controversial Troubles' legacy

Pictured at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast for Celebrating Our Reconciling Vision Of Hope. Archbishop Eamon Martin. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Pictured at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast for Celebrating Our Reconciling Vision Of Hope. Archbishop Eamon Martin. Picture by Hugh Russell.

CATHOLIC Archbishop Eamon Martin has suggested religious leaders could help to develop a "truth recovery process" to address the legacy of the Troubles.

The dramatic intervention from the Irish primate came at a service in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast yesterday in front of church leaders and senior politicians including Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris and the Irish Government's Trade and former Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

Amid the ongoing row over the British Government's controversial Legacy Bill, the archbishop suggested churches could be "ambitious" in helping "develop truth recovery process to address the legacy of pain and mistrust that continues to hang over us".

He said that peace, reconciliation and forgiveness across Ireland could only progress by shedding light on the truths of a troubled past that remain "hidden and festering".

He was speaking ahead of the secretary of state's five day trip to US where he can be expected to be grilled on the controversial Legacy Bill.

The bill, which introduces conditional amnesties, is on course to pass into law before summer.

It would end all future civil actions related to the conflict and there would be no further inquests beyond those already commenced.

The proposals have been opposed by the main political parties in Northern Ireland, the Irish government and victims' groups.

A US Congressional letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week expressed concerns about the UK Government's "dangerous" Troubles legacy plans.

The bipartisan letter from 27 members of the US Congress claims draft legislation would "deny justice to thousands of families" and "conceal the truth of the past".

In 2009, former Catholic priest and Irish News columnist Denis Bradley, a former vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, worked with former Church of Ireland Primate, Lord Eames, to produce a report into dealing with legacy issues.

It made 31 recommendations on how to address the past.

The group’s most controversial proposal was for a £12,000 payment to the relatives of all killed during the Troubles – which would have cost some £40 million in total – even if the fatalities were involved in paramilitary shootings and bombings.

However their recommendations and report were shelved.

Yesterday's service at St Anne's was led by the Dean of Belfast the Very Rev Stephen Forde, and saw representatives and leaders from 16 different churches participate.

The event was marking 100 years since the first meeting of the Irish Council of Churches.

It also marked the 50th anniversary of the Ballymascanlon Talks during the Troubles in 1973, which led to the creation of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting.