N. Ireland Politics

James Brokenshire: Stumbling blocks regarding legacy of Troubles to enter 'more public phase'

James Brokenshire
Image caption James Brokenshire made his comments at a conference in Oxford on Friday evening

The secretary of state for Northern Ireland has said he wants the search for agreement on the stumbling blocks regarding the legacy of the Troubles to enter a more public phase.

James Brokenshire made his comments at a conference in Oxford on Friday evening attended by British and Irish politicians.

He told the audience at the British-Irish Association Conference that making progress on the issues of the past was one of his "key priorities".

Mr Brokenshire said he had met groups representing victims and survivors as well as individuals who either lost loved ones or were injured during the Troubles in recent weeks.

He described such meetings as a "profoundly moving and affecting experience".

The secretary of state said he recognised their "desire to for information, for answers and in some cases for justice to be done and to be seen to be done" while being "very conscious of their frustration" that the current structures were not working.

He is also highlighted the failure to establish the necessary political consensus to bring about change.

"They are the ones who suffered the most during the Troubles... and we have an obligation to do what we can to help them," he said.

'Confidence'

Mr Brokenshire said he believed the process would "benefit from a more public phase" and said he would "reflect over the coming weeks" what form that might take.

"It will be important to have a public phase to ensure there's a good understanding of what we're doing so that we build that confidence in the institutions so that they're able to take effect but also get on with their job with that sense of the backing of those who really need it," he said.

Addressing the next steps, the secretary of state reiterated his commitment to the legacy bodies proposed in the Stormont House Agreement and "to strike the right balance between the obligation to the families to provide comprehensive disclosure …and my fundamental obligation as secretary of state to protect lives and keep people safe and secure".

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Mr Kenny told the conference he wanted organisations and individuals across Ireland to have their say on the implications of Brexit

He said the so-called legacy bodies set out in the Stormont House Agreement continued to "provide the most effective way to make progress on this hugely sensitive but hugely important issue".

The secretary of state also said the opinion poll on the border carried out on behalf of BBC NI's The View programme showed overwhelming support for the current settlement.

He rejected the view that leaving the EU risked unravelling the progress made in recent years.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was also at the event, said there was no evidence to suggest a border poll would bring about a 32-county republic if held now but the possibility of unity by consent should be maintained as a valid democratic option for the future.

Mr Kenny also wants organisations and individuals across Ireland to have their say on the implications of Brexit.

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