Stormont House Agreement

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Conservative, Calder Valley 12:00 am, 7th December 2016

What steps he is taking to build consensus across Northern Ireland on establishing the legacy bodies included in the Stormont House agreement.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I continue to meet victims groups, the Executive and others to establish the legacy bodies set out in the Stormont House agreement. When I am confident that there is sufficient political consensus, I intend to move to a public phase, to allow wider community consideration, and to build confidence and momentum behind the creation of the new legacy bodies.

Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Conservative, Calder Valley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital that the legacy bodies in the Stormont House agreement operate in ways that are fair, balanced, impartial and proportionate if we are to counter the one-sided focus on cases involving the state, whereas over 90% of deaths in the troubles were caused by terrorists?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

My hon. Friend makes a powerful and important point. I agree that the legacy bodies must be balanced and proportionate. That was at the heart of the phraseology in the Stormont House agreement and will be important in delivering that more balanced approach.

Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Labour, St Helens North

Part of addressing the legacy of the past is breaking down divisions that exist today. Will the Secretary of State therefore join me in expressing sympathy to the family of Danny Murphy, the secretary of the Ulster Gaelic Athletic Association, who died this morning and who worked tirelessly to build peace and reconciliation and to bring people together through sport? He is a loss to all of us and to that vital work.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing to the attention of the House the sad death of Danny Murphy. I am sure all of us extend our condolences to his friends and family. It is worth reflecting at this time on the powerful way in which sport can unite people and bring them together.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights)

Does the Secretary of State recognise the sheer hypocrisy of republicans who seek 100% transparency on 10% of the deaths in the troubles, but offer none in return? Until they do, and until they offer the assurance that they will give information about the killings, deaths and murders that they were responsible for, it will be incredibly difficult to build the consensus that we need.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

It is important for everyone to work together to move the process on. That is why I continue to commit significant efforts and work to doing just that. The hon. Gentleman is right: at present, the system is heavily focused on the 10% rather than the 90%, and the balanced, proportionate measures that I put forward will assist in changing that.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party, Foyle

First, I associate myself with the tributes paid both to the fine journalist Austin Hunter and to the fíor Gael Danny Murphy, who was such a good servant of community relations and reconciliation. Would the Minister not do better in building consensus if he did not revisit pejorative remarks that give offence to victims of state violence? In relation to having a balanced approach, surely having a stronger provision in respect of thematics would be much better—one that was not restricted to killings, as other measures are, but would examine the patterns and practices of paramilitaries.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that the legacy bodies contemplated cover a range of issues. Yes, of course, part of this is about investigation, and part is about more information and consideration of the issues to come forward in a number of different ways. That is why it is a priority that we move forward with the Stormont House bodies, and why that remains a key focus for me.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

One of the most serious omissions over the past years has been the failure to address the desperate plight of people who have been seriously injured as a result of the troubles, and who have been unable to work and therefore unable to build up second pension provision. Notwithstanding what the Secretary of State said about the need for political consensus, will he meet me and representatives of the WAVE trauma centre to see how we can work together to try to resolve this tremendous anomaly as quickly as possible?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. I have met with the WAVE trauma centre previously, and look forward to continuing engagement with it. I am conscious of the issue of pension rights. Discussion is continuing with the Northern Ireland Executive, and I will continue to seek to gain the necessary consensus to make progress on this important issue.