By Gareth Cross
July 5 2018
Only nine Stormont MLAs attended a meeting at Stormont on Thursday to discuss the public consultation on legacy issues in Northern Ireland.
UUP MLA Doug Beattie said that no representatives from Northern Ireland’s three largest parties the DUP, Sinn Fein or SDLP attended the event.
The meeting was hosted by the Secretary of State’s team to brief MLAs on the public consultation into Northern Ireland’s Troubles legacy issues.
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The consultation document outlines plans for a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) which would investigate over 1,700 unsolved murders from the conflict.
The plans also include the setting up of an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval which would only look for information on deaths if asked to do so by families. The public consultation will run until September 10.
Of Stormont’s 90 MLA’s only nine attended the consultation with none from the Assembly’s three biggest parties.
The MLA’s in attendance were the UUP’s Doug Beattie, Roy Beggs, Steve Aitken, Rosemary Barton and Alan Chambers, TUV leader Jim Allister, Alliance Party MLA John Blair, Green Party MLA Clare Bailey and the Independent MLA, former Justice Minister Claire Sugden.
UUP Justice Spokesperson Doug Beattie said he was shocked by the turnout at the event.
“I guess they were expecting their to be quite a few MLAs present, the reality was that only nine turned up,” the Upper Bann MLA said.
“It was pretty shocking and yet some of the questions asked were very probing. There was an opportunity missed by some parties to have their representatives there. Some of it was pretty fundamental to what is being proposed.
“Sinn Fein and the DUP have their fingerprints all over these proposals from the Stormont House Agreement. It’s their baby and they agree with it. We were there to voice concerns in certain aspects because we are not supportive of the HIU.”
Mr Beattie said that all MLAs and parties would have known the event was taking place and had the opportunity to attend or send a party representative.
“I’m not sure why they felt there was no need to turn up, I’m surprised. The people will be looking and saying here is a major issue that has been a stumbling block in Northern Ireland for decades and when there’s an opportunity to progress things forward look how many turn up,” the ex-soldier said.
“I turned up as the justice spokesperson and can brief other members if need be but some parties didn’t even send a representative to do that.
“I think it’s pretty awful, I was sitting there, questions were being asked and I was learning and being informed. I’ve read the consultation and understand it, but there’s still things to learn. It doesn’t matter what side of the divide you come from there are questions to be asked around this and for people not to even attend is pretty shoddy.”
In response to their non-attendance at the event an SDLP spokesperson said that the party have been engaging with the legacy consultation since the process began.
“The SDLP attended the initial launch of the ‘Addressing the Legacy of the Past’ consultation in Queens University Belfast in May,” the spokesperson said.
“The party hold weekly internal briefings and have had direct exchanges with the NIO around the issue of legacy.
“Our Policing and Justice Spokesperson Dolores Kelly MLA has held several meetings with victims groups across the North in the last month to ensure their voices are reflected in our final submission.”
The Belfast Telegraph has contacted the DUP and Sinn Fein for comment.
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