Stalled legacy process high on agenda as leaders meet in Belfast

Posted By: December 14, 2016

TALKS: Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness will hold talks with secretary of state James Brokenshire and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan at Stormont House

David Young. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, December 14, 2016

THE ongoing failure to address legacy issues will be high on the agenda as political leaders meet in Belfast today.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will hold talks with the secretary of state James Brokenshire and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan at Stormont House.

Justice Minister Claire Sugden will also take part in the quarterly review meeting to assess the implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements.

While progress has been made in a number of areas since the 2014 and 2015 deals, a row continues to stymie the establishment of new mechanisms to deal with Northern Ireland’s toxic past.

Proposed mechanisms to address the needs of victims and an accompanying multimillion-pound government funding package are stuck in the starting blocks owing to a wrangle linked to the potential non-disclosure of British state papers on national security grounds.

The package agreed by Stormont leaders and the British and Irish governments, which includes a new investigations unit, a truth recovery mechanism, an oral history archive and enhanced funding for Troubles-related inquests, will not become reality until the logjam is cleared.

The national security dispute is primarily between the British government and Sinn Féin. However, the Democratic Unionists are refusing to sign off on the funding boost for legacy inquests until all the other issues are sorted.

Ahead of the today’s review, Mr. Brokenshire, right, said: “These quarterly meetings are an important mechanism to drive forward close working towards implementing the Fresh Start and Stormont House Agreements. The UK government remains committed to the full and faithful implementation of both agreements, including the establishment of the new institutions to address the legacy of the past.”

“Good progress has been made on implementing the agreements. This includes legislation on welfare reform, a Joint Agency Task Force to tackle cross-border organized crime, an executive strategy to disband paramilitary groups and a new Independent Reporting Commission to report on progress towards ending paramilitary activity.

“We are working closely with the executive and the Irish government on outstanding commitments. Constructive work continues between the UK government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish government, with progress on the outstanding points in relation to legacy. There is still work to do, and everyone in the current process must play their part.”

“Delivering these is essential for building a brighter, more secure future for Northern Ireland – where politics works, the economy is strong and society is more united, freed from the malign impact of paramilitary activity and associated criminality.”

Ahead of the meeting, Mr. Flanagan described it as an “important opportunity for the two governments and the Northern Ireland Executive to come together and work on our shared objective to achieve full implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements, which provide a vital framework for Northern Ireland in the period ahead.”

Mr Flanagan will also host a reconciliation event in east Belfast.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s annual Reconciliation Networking Forum brings together organizations and individuals working on building better relations on the island of Ireland.

“I look forward to participating in the Reconciliation Networking Forum in Belfast,” he said.