Northern Ireland

Troubles victims let down by politicians says victims commissioner

Judith Thompson
Image caption Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson said that progress is still possible but will require political courage

The commissioner who represents victims of the Troubles has said they have been let down by politicians.

Judith Thompson said they are "utterly disillusioned" by the failure to reach agreement on how to deal with the past.

The victims commissioner said that she believes progress is still possible on the issue.

But she added that it will require political courage because all sides have something to fear.

Ms Thompson was responding to Secretary of State James Brokenshire who said a public consultation on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles is on hold until he achieves "broad political consensus".

In a BBC interview, she accepted that going public with proposals that have not been agreed could "kill the process", but said progress must be made.

"It's going to require a lot of courage on all parts because what will come out through the proper investigation of these 2,000 deaths is not going to be comfortable for anybody," she said.

'Political ping pong'

"But the consequences of not doing it are very, very far reaching and will bring us back to this point again at some point."

The Stormont House Agreement set out a plan for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles two years ago.

The British government and DUP are at loggerheads with Sinn Féin on the issue and the two sides have been unable to reach agreement on how that will be done.

In recent weeks, each side has blamed the other for the lack of progress.

"This is something that is far, far too important to be playing political ping pong around whose fault it might be," said Ms Thompson.

"I have sat down with victims' groups over the last number of days, and I think people feel utterly disillusioned.

"What people have said to me is, look people bring us in, everybody says they care about us, everybody says we are at the centre of what is happening and then they don't do anything.

"So what does that tell us? It tells us that we actually aren't important at all."

'Teetering on the edge'

Asked if she also felt disillusioned by the lack of agreement on the issue, the commissioner said she desperately felt the "injustice" of the situation.

"Yes, there are political objectives, there are strategies and long-term strategies for all the players in the political arena, for where they want to get to, but the people I talk for, they don't have that time," she said.

One of the main sticking points in the negotiations on legacy is the issue of national security, and how much sensitive information the government and security agencies have said should be released into the public domain.

The commissioner has previously said the government cannot use national security as a rock under which to hide from Troubles-related issues.

Ms Thompson said she believes efforts to reach agreement on the past are now "teetering on the edge", and that victims have been let down.

"Collectively everybody has (let them down). Collectively victims have not been served well in the out-workings of our peace, and our peace has served most of us very well," she said.

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