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Stormont House legacy proposals best and last opportunity to deal with the past, says Farry

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has said the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) proposals are the best and last opportunity to deal with the legacy of the past.

Dr Farry was speaking as Alliance finalised its response to the UK Government's consultation on addressing the past. However, he indicated there still needed to be some changes made and safeguards built in to the SHA proposals to strengthen them.

"A large number of victims and survivors in our society continue to bear both physical and psychological wounds from the Troubles, as well as having practical needs which have still not been addressed," he said.

"The SHA arrangements represent the best and last opportunity for a workable system to deal with that legacy, building on previous work. They have the support or assent of the UK and Irish Governments, plus a cross-section of local political parties, and large numbers of victims and survivors' groups, academics and others in civic society. They are the culmination of collective efforts across our society to find a comprehensive set of mechanisms over many years.

"We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good. If this opportunity passes, we may not get another chance to address this significant gap in the peace and reconciliation process.

"However, while we must recognise and respect the overall framework provided through the SHA arrangements, there can and should be some changes made to the detailed proposals.

"These include extending the remit of the Historical Investigations Unit to encompass all cases that have been subject to review under the Historical Enquiries Team, more robust accountability mechanisms and safeguards to ensure proportionality, and the Oral History Archive needs to be more independent from government and work with existing good practice in civil society.

"Ultimately for Alliance, reconciliation must be a core objective of any overarching process. We cannot claim a new beginning for our society through drawing a line under the past. Rather we need to bring closure to people. While this process may entail some difficult conversations and some uncomfortable truths, a stronger platform for reconciliation will be provided - but that will require proactive work. Therefore, the Implementation and Reconciliation Group will be a key body."