Northern Ireland

Paterson attracted to idea of NI normalisation bill

Image caption The NI Secretary suggests a new platform to deal with the legacy of the Troubles

The Secretary of State Owen Patterson has said he is "increasingly attracted" to the idea of introducing an NI "normalisation bill" at Westminster.

The bill would deal with issues such as political donations, elements of electoral law and end double-jobbing if MLA's cannot agree to do so themselves.

Mr Paterson also suggested options for dealing with the past.

He suggested that people affected by the Troubles could have their stories recorded by a new, independent body.

The secretary of state said this was just one of a number of options he was considering on how best to deal with the legacy of violence.

He ruled out a South African-style truth commission.

But he said a new platform to record stories and allow access to documents, could be an option.

"A further idea is some kind of mechanism for information sharing and recovery," he said.

"Spanish legislation in 2007 included provision for a Historical Memory Documentary Centre in Salamanca with public access to archives and documents.

"Anything similar in NI would clearly need involvement from all those involved in the events of the past 40 years. It could not be a one-sided exercise.

"And its value would be highly dependent on the extent to which individuals would be prepared to tell their story and under what provision."

Mr Paterson said the government would contribute to such a process over the release of documents, but it would have to be wholly independent of government.

"It wouldn't be a shortcut to dealing with the past. But it might help families, and wider society, achieve greater understanding and closure, however difficult that might be," he said.

In a speech in London on Tuesday evening, Mr Paterson also suggested there might be a role for a panel of historians to interpret all the available material with a view to producing the "authoritative history of the Troubles".

"Historians might just have more appropriate skills than lawyers in helping to resolve the past," he said.

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