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Politics and Government

Northern Ireland written question – answered on 24th November 2011.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent steps he has taken in respect of (a) the past and (b) legacy issues in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The Government continue to play their part in dealing with issues relating to the past and in resolving outstanding legacy issues. The reports of three of four public inquiries were published in full in each case the day after I received the report (the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in June 2010, the Billy Wright Inquiry in September 2010 and the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry in May 2011). The Robert Hamill Inquiry report is to be published as soon as practicable, once related ongoing criminal proceedings have concluded. Sir Desmond de Silva's Review concerning the murder of Patrick Finucane is well under way. The Government have, where appropriate, apologised for past actions. The Prime Minister apologised to the Bloody Sunday families and, more recently, to the family of Patrick Finucane. The Government also published a summary of the responses to the previous Government's consultation on the recommendations of the Consultative Group on the Past from which it was clear that there is no consensus on the best way forward.

It is also important to recognise the wide range of work, and investigative matters, that are being taken forward in Northern Ireland, including the work of the Police Ombudsman's Office, the Historical Enquiries Team and the Victims Commissioners.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my right hon. Friend Mr Swire and I have been carrying out a listening exercise, meeting a wide range of political parties, community organisations, academics and victims' groups to hear their views on how best to learn from the past. As is clear from the steps already taken, the Government are ready to make their own contribution on this matter but they do not “own” the past and cannot impose solutions; all those with an interest in Northern Ireland have a part to play.

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