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Addressing the Past

Part of Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:45 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Paul Frew Paul Frew DUP 1:45 pm, 7th November 2016

I beg to move amendment No 1.

Leave out all after the first "proposals;" and insert "further believes that all parties should work towards an early resolution of these matters; and welcomes the Government’s proposals to consult on a way forward.".

Let me say at the outset that I agree with a lot of what Mr Attwood said, as it resonates with me. I yearn for the day when we get this issue dealt with. I am sure that every one of us has met, spoken to, or even has family members who are victims or who are involved in a victims' group. We have all met them and seen the pain in their eyes and heard it in their voices when they talk about their loved ones and how they miss them.

However, it is also a truth that not all victims want and need the same thing. That is something that we need to be very mindful of when we proceed along this path. It is also clear that, on these issues, trust has been and probably will continue to be a massive issue. In fact, it is a massive barrier to moving forward. The fact is that not all victims' groups want or need the same thing. Even within victims' groups, there are victims and survivors who do not want or need the same thing. It is a massive issue for us, the leaders, who are trying to move Northern Ireland forward, working with the UK Government. The Irish Government also have a massive part to play in this moving forward as regards their role in the Troubles. With all of that, trying to get a resolution and agreement has, to this point, proven to be remarkably difficult.

What are the needs and wants of victims and survivors? Some want truth, and that is a massive area. Some want justice, some want truth without justice and some want justice with truth. This is a massive issue moving forward. What does our party want? Our party wants a resolution to this; of course we do. We want to remove some of that pain for those people who suffer this every single day. Ultimately, however, we see that this cannot move forward without justice being upheld. Justice must be seen to be done. The rule of law must be upheld without fear or favour to anyone — and I mean anyone, whether you were part of a terrorist organisation or you were a part of the security forces and you stepped out of line and broke the law. The law is there to protect the citizens of every nation. It is important that, as we move forward, the rule of law is maintained and justice is seen to be done.

This is a remarkably sensitive area. It has proven so difficult to move forward from the ceasefires and the various agreements to now. We are edging forward, although, of course, we are not going quickly enough. That responsibility lies on every single person in this House and on every single party. That is why I am speaking to the amendment that our party put forward:

"further believes that all parties should work towards an early resolution of these matters; and welcomes the Government’s proposals to consult on a way forward."

If we go into the public sphere on this, we should let the people see what is on the minds of the Governments. Let them judge for themselves how much or how little progress has been made or what more needs to be done. That is a very important issue, but nobody in this room, whether you are in government or in opposition, should shirk that responsibility.