The British government must open itself up to an independent inquiry if Northern Ireland is ever to achieve true peace, its deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said today.
"Unfortunately, to date, the British state has refused to acknowledge its role as a participant in the conflict. I believe it is insulting to the victims and insulting to people's intelligence,” he said.
The Sinn Fein politician, speaking alongside Michael Mansfield QC, backed the barrister's call for a UN-led international truth and reconciliation body to investigate post-conflict situations around the world, based on the “uninfluenced” model of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which recently reported back on the death of 96 football fans 23 years ago.
Mr McGuinness said that while Northern Ireland's peace process has “become a beacon of hope for conflict resolutions across the globe”, “far more needs to be done to tackle sectarianism”.
An independent investigation was needed to achieve reconciliation, he said: “To achieve total recovery, the process must be victim centred, independent and inclusive of all the participants, including the two governments. The British government should accept it was central to the conflict and make a contribution to the process.”
Speaking to The Independent, he said: “The British government must agree that the best way forward in dealing with the process is to establish an international, independent tribunal of inquiry.
“It is obvious to most of us that one of the reasons that there has been no such development is the reticence of the British government.
“Whilst also recognising the very generous comments made by David Cameron in the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday tribunal, things need to go a stage further to set up a tribunal inquiry for truth.”
Speaking earlier on Peace after terror: rules of reconciliation? at a meeting hosted by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute in Dublin, Mr McGuinness said: “The task of building national reconciliation is as much part of the peace process as anything that has gone before,” he said, adding: “The war is over, the armed conflict is over in Ireland but people north and south need to start building a country that is truly at peace with itself.”
Mr Mansfield, speaking at the same debate, called for the formation of a UN-led truth and reconciliation body, insisting that current mechanisms that focused on punitive justice were not enough. Instead it should be an organisation with international credibility, that was not influenced by states and focused on giving victims a voice by making the authorities accountable.
“It is not always about prosecuting, it is about searching for the truth of what has happened,” he said, adding: “The Hillsborough panel was an extremely good model. It worked efficiently, didn't leak, was uninfluenced and came up with a really hard hitting report.”
This afternoon a Northern Ireland Office said: “This is a complicated issue and there are no easy answers to the past. It is clear that no consensus exists for any truth and reconciliation commission or similar process.
“We have to work with local people to find a way forward. But the UK Government has shown that where the State has got things wrong we are prepared to face up to and account for what we’ve done, it’s the responsibility of everyone to face up to their part in the mistakes and tragedies of the past. ”
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