The long hard road to finding a process to deal with our complex and painful past was dealt a severe blow last week.
I’m very clear about who is to blame, and will come to that. But my primary issue is what the failure to agree an implementation plan for the Stormont House Agreement has done. It has broken a promise to victims. It has heaped another failed process onto the pain of all other failed processes.
When the Good Friday Agreement was signed there was one paragraph of platitudes to victims. Then we saw a small number of individual cases being examined, usually as a result of political agreement. The Bloody Sunday inquiry in 1998. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains was established 1999, the Cory investigations into a small number of collusion killings following the Weston Park Agreement in 2001. Since 2001 the Police Ombudsman has carried out historical investigations of RUC and PSNI misconduct and wrongdoing. The Historical Enquiries Team was established in 2005, it was riddled with improper conduct and state interference, and disbanded in ignominy in 2013. Currently there are 55 outstanding inquests with the coronial service into 96 deaths, including those in Ballymurphy in 1971. 
While all of this has happened every party and both governments have kept saying how much they care about victims.

The Eames Bradley proposals were shelved in 2009. The Haas O’Sullivan proposals didn’t ring in the new year of 2014. However in December 2014 the Stormont House Agreement provided an agreed approach to dealing with the past. Its emphasis on human rights and victims’ needs gave hope to many families. This time we saw multi party agreement and signature from both governments. This was meant to be a genuine and real moment for bereaved victims of conflict. Many families, despite their experience of failed process heaped onto systemic cover up, began to wonder how it might work for them and planned their own engagement.
However the British Government was disingenuous and destroyed the agreement with their insistence on blanket national security caveats. The SDLP and Sinn Féin had quite rightly stood up to them during negotiations. They correctly said no agreement is not worse than a bad agreement.
But, and it is a big but, the failure to implement a promise made to victims has dealt another harm on top of all of the other harms. It is the British Government’s fault – but these families are in our communities and we need to acknowledge the hurt they experience. Blame games are no use to families who need support and to have their own voices heard.

That on the Tuesday there was a press conference which heralded the areas of agreement as a Fresh Start, many hurt families who had no fresh start felt that their rights and needs had been once again shunted behind political process.

I understand that there will be arguments about the other parts of the “Fresh Start” paper between Sinn Féin and the SDLP over the welfare arrangements – and that is legitimate – but their unified approach for victims’ interests needs to be reasserted in relation to dealing with the past. There needs to be a strong and determined consensus on how to re-establish the implementation process for the Stormont House measures. That is a priority and supersedes all other party political argument. And they all need to publicly do much more to tell families they will not be left behind. And demonstrate in practical ways that commitment. And they need to put party politics aside and do it in a strengthened, coherent and committed fashion.
And as for the Irish government? Well, it is easy to be cynical. Irish citizens who have been bereaved by all actors to the conflict were treated with contempt by a British Government that refuses to live up to their legal obligations. Time for the Irish government to live up to their obligations on behalf of those citizens.

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