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UK News Troubles victims angered by ‘secret’ Lambeth Palace talks on legacy issues

14:55  04 december  2020
14:55  04 december  2020 Source:   newsletter.co.uk

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Key documents on the legacy of the Troubles , discussed at recent Stormont talks , should be published for victims ' groups, First Minister Peter Robinson reached a new deal on Tuesday but it did not include legacy issues . The Northern Ireland Victims Forum has demanded an apology from

Innocent Victims United (IVU) spokesman Kenny Donaldson said the Lambeth Palace meetings included a wide range of government, political and paramilitary-linked figures – with terror victims excluded.

a man wearing a suit and tie © Left to right: Sinn Fein strategist Sean Murray, former victims' commissioner, Judith Thompson and K...

Among those reported to have been involved are officials from both the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the Republic’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Sinn Fein strategist Sean Murray and Operation Kenova head Jon Boutcher.

A spokesman for the Archbishiop Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace said: “We don’t comment on private meetings”.

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Mr Donaldson said that while it was “no surprise” to learn that victims’ voices were not being heard, he questioned why the talks had been convened.

“The innocent victims and survivors of terrorism constituency won’t be railroaded by a political agenda masked as being in individual’s best interests. A resounding ‘No’ was given to the Stormont House legacy proposals and no fresh spin of those proposals will be acceptable to the largest constituency of victims and survivors; stop taking such individuals for fools.

Justin Welby wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a building © Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

“This new legacy forum, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury and meeting in Lambeth Palace – has already convened on a number of occasions, the last meeting being in October 2020.

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“Those attending included the Archbishop’s chief of staff David Porter, representatives of Sinn Fein and republicans in the form of convicted terrorist Sean (Spike) Murray, a representative of loyalism – Winston Irvine, senior police officers such as Jon Boutcher (the former Assistant Chief Constable of Bedfordshire), senior military officers from both Northern Ireland and the wider MOD and academics including Kieran McAvoy from Queen’s University Belfast as well as the former Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Judith Thompson”.

Mr Donaldson added: “Worryingly, the cast of actors in this legacy forum also includes the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and both the Irish Government’s UK Embassy and their Department for Foreign Affairs.

“The attendance of the latter is staggering given the Irish Government’s consistent refusal to deal with its own legacy responsibilities.

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“Providing a place at the table for that State to prevaricate on what the UK Government needs to do is beyond contemptible and serious questions need asking of the UK Government in terms of the NIO’s presence as its de facto representatives”.

“What we have before us is a venerable list of individuals talking about how legacy can be dealt with promoting a single agenda in the Stormont House Agreement, even though it is clear this does not have the support of the largest victim’s body representing circa 12,000 individual victims and survivors and many other victim/survivor groups and ex-security force welfare groups and associations.

“Neither do the SHA legacy proposals have the support of political unionism as confirmed in previous months”.

Mr Donaldson went on to say: “What is even more maddening is those who have been excluded from this forum – the victims themselves. Once again, those who have carried themselves with grace and dignity – in some cases for half a century – and who have been used and abused for political gain, are once again excluded from having their voice heard where proposals and potential decisions) affecting them are being taken.

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“Victims are angry. They are angry that the Irish Government have been elevated above them; they are angry that the Provisional Republican Movement (inclusive of Sinn Fein) are promoting their narrative unchecked; they are angry that the NIO saw fit to attend and they are angry that terrorists who created thousands of victims, are negotiating the terms of what they will or will not do in respect to legacy”.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson Doug Beattie said news of the talks “will be of concern to anyone who is interested in openness and transparency”.

He said: “I am especially concerned – and not a little angry – that the representatives of political unionism and the representatives of the victims of terrorism have been excluded from the room where these talks have been taking place.

“We need to find out exactly who organised this process, who was invited, who invited them, on whose authority they were acting, how invitees were selected, and what mandate they had to be there.

“I am extremely concerned at reports that included on the invited guest list, was the Irish Government along with representatives of the IRA and Sinn Fein, loyalist paramilitaries, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

“I also understand that certain academics were there seeking support for their own draft bill, based on the Stormont House Agreement legacy arrangements, which the Ulster Unionist Party and many victims of terrorism have already rejected.”

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Mr Beattie added: “Two years ago in the foreword to the legacy consultation process, the then Secretary of State Karen Bradley said that legacy proposals must be ‘balanced, fair, equitable and crucially, proportionate.’

“Now we find out that not only is this a one sided process, but the most important section of our community - the victims and survivors - have been excluded.

“Is it any wonder that Sinn Fein are starting to shout about the Stormont House Agreement once more because they knew about these meetings? While courting support from other political parties they have kept them in the dark as to what was going on.

“The Ulster Unionist Party is demanding answers as to what has been going on and particularly why we, and innocent victims of terrorism have been excluded.

“We will not stand idly by and watch as unelected and unrepresentative elements make decisions that will affect Northern Ireland for decades to come and allow terrorists to dictate the terms of legacy investigation over the interests of victims.

“We are committed to preventing history being re-written and to arrive at a legacy solution that is indeed ‘balanced, fair equitable and crucially, proportionate.’ This secret process clearly cannot do that.”

A DUP spokesman said the party “only recently became aware of this meeting” and has subsequently spoken to one of the Archbishop’s representatives to establish the nature of the talks and who participated.

“We were not invited to, nor have we been involved in this, or any of these meetings,” he said.

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“While people are at liberty to talk about legacy, ultimately it will be for the political parties, Her Majesty’s Government and victims to determine how we move forward on legacy.

“We have always made clear, and it remains our view that legacy issues can only be dealt with in a victims centred manner.

“It is particularly galling to find the Irish Government involved at a time when they have yet to deal with collusion in their own backyard.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “To establish a ‘Legacy Forum’ and exclude the voice of victims is scandalous. How can the many innocent victims who suffered because of the Irish Government’s policy of harbouring republican terrorists for decades and providing them with a safe haven from which to launch attacks have any faith in what emerges from a process which involved Dublin but excluded them?

“It would appear that talks have involved loyalist and republican victim makers but not their victims.”

Mr Allister said: “There are many questions about what has been taking place within this ‘Legacy Forum’ and as yet no answers. The people of Northern Ireland – particularly those who suffered at the hands of terrorists – deserve to be treated with much more respect than this.”.

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