The Government is committed to delivering on its controversial proposals to tackle legacy issues in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State has said.
On Sunday, Brandon Lewis said that the Government still intended to legislate this year on plans for a statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998 – and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.
However, he indicated that he was also willing to listen to the widespread concerns raised about the plans from Northern Irish political parties and victims’ groups.
Mr Lewis told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme: “We are committed to legislating this autumn.
“We were very clear when we published the command paper, as I said at the time, we were talking to not just the political parties but civic society, victims’ groups, other interested parties, including the Irish government, around ideas of how we take the next big bold step to move things forward for Northern Ireland.”
He said that the Government had spent the summer engaging with all “interested parties”.
“We will be coming to some conclusions about how we respond to that, how we take on board what people have said before we legislate,” he said.
He said: “I’m determined that families who want information about what happened get that in a better way that gives them knowledge and information.
“They shouldn’t have to wait 50 years.”
Asked if the Government’s primary concern was protecting former soldiers from prosecution, Mr Lewis said: “We said we would deliver on that for those who served and let’s remember people were serving to protect their communities and people’s lives and did so with great honour.
“There were some exceptions,” he said, referencing the Ballymurphy massacre.
However, he said that the Government’s proposals would still help deliver “truth” about events during the Troubles.
Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy, speaking on the same programme, said he was not “optimistic” that the UK Government would change its approach to legacy.
He called Mr Lewis’s comments “completely disingenuous”.
He said: “This is all about protecting their own state forces and those they used as proxies to deliver their war in Ireland.
“This is about closing down access to justice.”