‘All leaders must face’ legacy of Troubles

Governments in Dublin and London should join all-party negotiations in the North on dealing with the legacy of the past, victims of the Troubles have said.

Former US diplomat Richard Haass is chairing talks on contentious parades, flags, and the fallout from 30 years of violence. He has a deadline of the end of this year to produce recommendations.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the 1998 Omagh blast, met with other victims at Stormont to call on politicians to agree mechanisms to investigate past human rights abuses.

“Victims feel like they have become an unwelcome embarrassment to some politicians in Belfast, London, and Dublin,” said Mr Gallagher. “I am here today at Stormont to let politicians know that we are not going away and that our call for truth and justice for what happened to our loved ones is not going away.”

The Irish and British governments have insisted it is for local parties to resolve continuing differences on key issues, which at times have sparked violent protest. The Labour Party has called on the Coalition to play a more active role.

The Real IRA bombing of Omagh killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins. Nobody has been convicted of murder.

A cross-border public inquiry into events surrounding the atrocity was ruled out by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers earlier this year. She pointed to the failure of past public inquiries to create community consensus on what happened or resolve all unanswered questions.

Danny Toland, whose father John was shot dead by the UDA in Eglinton, Co Derry, in 1976, said the murder of his father was investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team, but the family was left with more questions than answers, particularly around the extent of collusion between the UDA and the security forces, which the HET could only say was “likely”.

“What is now needed is a new, more independent and effective means of investigating all past cases where there are outstanding questions,” said Mr Toland.

Alex Bunting, who was badly injured by an IRA car bomb in Belfast in 1991, said nobody wanted to listen to the victims.

“The political will to grasp the nettle of the past has been missing,” he said. “That now needs to change. The Haass talks are the moment when that dynamic must be reversed.”


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