28/01/2009

Protest At Troubles Legacy Report Launch

Protests heralded the launch today of an already contentious report outlining new proposals on how to deal with the legacy of the three decades of NI's Troubles.

Specifically attacking the proposed £12,000 payment for families of all those killed as well as terrorists, protesters - including former unionist politician Cedric Wilson and Willie Frazer from victim's group FAIR (see logo) - temporarily disrupted the launch.

The highly visible, though peaceful, protest came after many unionists and some other groups rejected the idea of a payment because it would include republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

TUV Leader Jim Allister was also among a group of people who were holding aloft placards denouncing the group's proposals with heated exchanges taking place as PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and other dignitaries gathered for the launch at the Europa Hotel, in Belfast.

However, report co-author Lord Eames described the money as a "recognition payment" and urged those involved to read the entire document, all 190 pages - and to look at the 30 recommendations that are included.

Lord Eames and Denis Bradley's Consultative Group on the Past, wants a 'Legacy Commission', which would be led by an international figure.

This morning they said that the commission would take over the work currently carried out by the NI Police Ombudsman, which investigates complaints against the police, and the Historical Enquiries Team, a specialist police unit set up to investigate unsolved killings throughout the Troubles.

Former Church of Ireland Primate Lord Eames said it was a "challenging and complex report" on what was "too important an issue for instant responses".

"When we undertook this work, we were under no illusions that it would be extremely difficult for our society to escape the dark shadows of the past," he said.

Key among the other ideas put forward alongside the proposed Legacy Commission - which would last five years with a £100m bursary to tackle the tasks of securing reconciliation, justice and information recovery - are the outlines of a new Reconciliation Forum to help the Legacy Commission and the existing Commission for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland; the controversal £12,000 "recognition payment" and a new Review and Investigation Unit to replace the police Historical Enquiries Team and the Police Ombudsman's unit dealing with historical cases.

The body also suggested there should be no new public inquiries, and although not proposing an amnesty for crimes linked to the conflict, it recommended the Legacy Commission should make proposals on how "a line might be drawn".

In addition, an annual 'Day of Reflection and Reconciliation' and a shared memorial to the conflict has been proposed.

(BMcC/JM)

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