The North’s Government has published plans to legislate for new mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles but warned they will not be activated until political resolution is found at Stormont.
The policy paper outlined by the North’s Secretary Theresa Villiers sets out how the North’s Government will establish investigative and truth recovery bodies agreed in last year’s landmark Stormont House Agreement.
The paper also contains proposed legislation required for an oral archive to document the history of the conflict.
However, the law will contain a commencement clause meaning the new structures will only come in to operation if the parties resolve their current disputes about other elements of the Stormont House deal, in particular the impasse over the non-implementation of welfare reforms in the region.
Ms Villiers stressed the importance of reaching an agreement on the Stormont House accord.
“One of the reasons why we need to resolve the whole range of questions, to get the agreement sorted and the implementation process going again is because we don’t want to hold up these new institutions because it is important that we see real progress for victims and survivors,” she said.
The new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) will take on the criminal justice element of investigating the past while the separate Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) will endeavour to give bereaved relatives the chance to learn more about the circumstances of their loved ones’ deaths.
As agreed by the five Executive parties and the British and Irish governments last December, information provided to the ICIR cannot be used in a criminal prosecution.
However, contributors can still be prosecuted for historic crimes on the basis of other evidence.
Ms Villiers said any attempt to portray that as an amnesty was “misleading”.
“There is no amnesty in this paper,” she said.
“There won’t be an amnesty in the bill, an amnesty was rejected by the five Northern Ireland parties during the Stormont House talks – that is not the right way forward.”