Over the last week we’ve debated in Parliament the need to finally deliver on the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland.
One of the greatest elements of the Good Friday Agreement that has still not been implemented, 22 years on, is a way to investigate and finally deliver the truth about the thousands of murders that took place during the Troubles.
Too many processes, over the years, have failed to effectively deliver investigations and have let down victims and their families. We only have one last opportunity to get this right as for too many, it is already too late. Too many people have gone to their own graves, never knowing the truth about what really happened to their loved ones.
Absolutely essential to this, is the need to build broad-based consensus.
Northern Ireland society has made great progress towards reconciliation in the past two decades. But it is dangerously naïve to think that a veil can simply be drawn over the many atrocities that occurred during the Troubles over so many years.
Victims’ families have had to campaign for too long for the basics that would have been afforded them had their loved-ones been murdered anywhere else in the United Kingdom. If we do not resolve this now, victims and survivors will be having the same debates in ten years’ time, and the people of Northern Ireland will continue to suffer for politicians’ collective failure.
Everything that has been achieved in Northern Ireland has been achieved on the basis of consensus. The Belfast, St Andrews, Hillsborough Castle, Stormont House and the New Decade, New Approach agreements were all made possible by painstakingly building consensus across communities and parties, and in partnership with the Irish Government. It would be foolish to think that dealing with legacy should or could be any different.
In public and in private, I have pledged to work with the Government to bring about that consensus on this issue. There must be no party politics for Labour and the Conservatives on this. As co-signatories to the Good Friday Agreement, the Labour Party is desperate for the Government to get this right. It falls to our generation of politicians to take brave decisions and finally deliver on legacy.