ULSTER Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has described the province’s mechanisms of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles as “incomplete and imbalanced” and “serving to re-write history”.
The Ulster Unionist made his comments following a meeting in Moneymore with local victims of the Troubles. UUP MLA for Mid-Ulster Sandra Overend hosted the meeting which contributed to the launch of the party’s paper entitled ‘Dealing with the Past’.
Sandra invited local victims of the Troubles to have a say on how they thought the issues relating to the past can be dealt with.
Following the meeting, Mr Nesbitt said his party would be continuing to work and press the Secretary of State as well as the British and Irish government’s on working towards “honest brokerage” on dealing with the events of the past.
He said: “The way we deal with the past at present is through a series of mechanisms which focus on those most impacted by individual events, rather than with a view to enabling and empowering society to move on. Further, the current mechanisms are imperfect, incomplete and imbalanced, and are serving to re-write history, painting the state and its security force personnel as the villains.
“Clearly, this is not a tenable position,” he said.
“The Ulster Unionist Party will continue to press the Secretary of State and UK Government, the Government of the Republic of Ireland, and the EU to accept that a solution to Dealing with the Past requires honest brokerage, and that it is unacceptable to hide behind the assertion that these matters are now devolved, not least because many of the legal issues are European and best addressed by sovereign governments, not devolved administrations.”
Mr Nesbitt added: “The past can be unpicked but not undone. It is the future that we can better influence. The Ulster Unionist Party wishes to agree a way to close the ugly chapter of Northern Ireland’s first century marked “The Troubles” and focus on the opportunities we can create for all in our second hundred years.”
Speaking to the MAIL following the victims meeting, which included those from across the Mid-Ulster community, Sandra Overend said that the past “must not” prevent the province from moving forward.
Mrs Overend said: “I welcomed the opportunity to invite Ulster Unionist Party Leader Mike Nesbitt to my constituency office last week to engage with various representatives of the victims’ community in Mid-Ulster and determine a way forward for those in Mid-Ulster who have had their lives blighted by the Troubles.”
“This was a timely event and served to provide a clearer understanding of the specific issues and most pressing concerns for Mid-Ulster victims.
“The history of Northern Ireland, from advent to present, often does not make for pleasant reading but we are now in a time of peace and must work to ensure that it is a peace in which everyone has a positive and constructive role to play,” she said.
“The lessons from the past must not continue to scar and prevent us from moving forward. While there is a sentiment, among the victims of Mid-Ulster, that they have been left behind and neglected by the system, this is something that we can and must work to address in order to create a Northern Ireland that works for everyone.”