Patrick Finucane: Supreme Court Judgment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 30th November 2020.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 5:32 pm, 30th November 2020

The hon. Lady is absolutely right: we all should be working to find a holistic approach to the legacy issues for Northern Ireland. It is something we agreed to do and pledged to do as part of the new decade, new approach agreement that saw the return of Stormont this year. I think it is a hugely important piece of work, and it is something we owe to the next generation and the current generations of people across Northern Ireland of all communities. There are still, as she said, far too many families across societies in Northern Ireland who do not know what happened to members of their family and do not have the details of what happened during the troubles. We should all be working across parties and across society to look at how we can get that information so that families can have a way to reconciliation and information that allows that to happen. That is how we allow Northern Ireland to continue not just to build on the peace process, but to really look forward to a more prosperous and forward-looking future. That cannot change what happened in the past, but it does give families and people an opportunity to know more and to understand across all communities.

I have to say I differ from the hon. Lady in what she understands is our approach today, because it is quite the opposite. I have been clear and consistent all the way through that we want, and I want, to make sure that we are engaged not just across all political parties in Northern Ireland, but across civic society and in dealing with our partners in the Irish Government, to whom I speak regularly on these issues as well. We will continue to do that work. People were rightly focused over the last few months of this year on dealing with covid-19, but it is right that we start to move to talk to people about the future relating to the troubles of the past and how we move forward. We are doing that across civic society and across all parties, and we will be doing so.

I also differ from the hon. Lady in what seems to be her lack of confidence in the PSNI. The PSNI is independent. Its review and investigation is independent of Government, and I have confidence in its ability. We saw just this summer phenomenal work from the PSNI, with partners, on dealing with issues in Northern Ireland. I have absolute confidence that it will deal with this review in the right way and in a proper way. I support the opinion that the PSNI has outlined: that it will potentially seek to have an independent force work on this issue. We will support and help it on that, but that is a matter for the PSNI. I believe it is right that we allow this process and the police ombudsman process, which is equally independent, to happen and then to look at the findings from them, because until we know what comes from those reviews and investigations, it is too soon to know whether that would bring compliance with article 2. The hon. Lady seems to want to prejudge that, but we should let the police do their job.