British government receives thousands of submissions on legacy of Troubles

Sinn Féin clarifies its position to consultation process on main protagonist of conflict

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley. Photograph: Epa/Andy Rain

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley. Photograph: Epa/Andy Rain

 

If a real effort isn’t made to deal with the legacy of the Troubles then inevitably the grief and grievance of victims and survivors will continue into future generations, an expert in conflict trauma has warned.

Sandra Peake, chief executive of the Wave trauma centre in Northern Ireland urged Northern Secretary Karen Bradley to seize the current opportunity to devise concrete proposals to address the past.

Each year the Wave centre caters for 2,500 people who have suffered and need assistance as a result of their experience of the Troubles. Even though there has been relative peace in Northern Ireland for several years, Wave deals with up to 700 new referrals each year.

Ms Peake made her call as the British government consultation on the past concluded at midnight on Thursday.

The consultation was designed to assist Ms Bradley produce proposals that would help victims and survivors of the conflict.

The level of interest in finding a means of addressing the past was demonstrated by the fact that Ms Bradley received thousands of submissions to her consultation.

Ms Bradley already has a model provided by the Stormont House Agreement of December 2014. Its proposals included an historical investigations unit to investigate cold-case Troubles killings; an independent commission on information retrieval where perpetrators could tell the truth without fear of prosecution; and an oral history archive where victims and others could tell their stories of the conflict.

She is expected to come up with her own proposals within a period of three months.

Continued political division has prevented agreement on these and other proposals. Ms Bradley hopes the consultation will provide a new dynamic, even in the absence of a power-sharing Northern Executive, to allow her tackle the issue.

‘Conflict protagonist’

The difficulties about confronting the past were further demonstrated this week by the controversy generated when Sinn Féin, in its submission to the consultation, claimed the British government was the “main conflict protagonist” during the Troubles – notwithstanding that the IRA was responsible for half of the deaths, close to 1,800 killings.

DUP leader Arlene Foster accused Sinn Féin of engaging in a “big lie” and seeking to “rewrite history”.

Sinn Féin appeared to moderate its position on Thursday when party MLA Gerry Kelly told the BBC it was “reasonable for me and for republicans to say that the British were the main protagonists”.

“But I am also accepting that political unionism, or British soldiers or whoever wants to say, that the IRA were a main protagonist,” he added. “I have no difficulty with that, because the IRA were a main protagonist.”

Ms Peake said it was crucial that Ms Bradley “grasp this nettle” or else future generations would be destined to suffer the trauma of those who directly experienced the Troubles.