The Senator has outlined many of the concerns I have. It will not surprise people that she and I have a very similar view on this issue. I will comment on a number of matters. There was a fear among many people that the British Government could act unilaterally to pass legislation in Westminster. We know there is a lot of pressure in Westminster to do that, to be honest, in the context of commitments that have previously been made to veterans' associations and so on. There was a real fear among victims, representative groups and political parties that the British Government may decide to legislate and introduce what many would regard as an amnesty or statute of limitations. Even though nothing has been formally published in that regard, many of the debates in Westminster leave us in no doubt that there is pressure on the British Government in that area.
I have been speaking to the Secretary of State, as you would expect, on this issue. The relationship is good on this issue. I have made it clear that the position of the Irish Government is that we support the Stormont House Agreement, which we think is, on balance, the best way forward. As people know, the Stormont House Agreement effectively sets up four structures. It establishes a historical investigations unit to take forward investigations that are outstanding and uses the court system to do that. It sets up an independent commission for information recovery where people can come and tell their stories outside of a court setting in an attempt to establish the truth. The agreement establishes an oral history archive which offers an opportunity to share experiences and narratives relating to the Troubles in terms of trying to create a context around what happened, how and why, even though it is extraordinarily painful. Many people have very different versions of that history, including some people in this meeting. The agreement also focuses on an implementation and reconciliation group to oversee the process and report on the themes, drawing from the work of other bodies and so on. That is a structured approach that deals with truth recovery, the pursuit of justice in court and tries to build a historical context that can take account of the very different perspectives on history and, of course, a structured focus on ensuring that leads to a process of reconciliation. That is quite a compelling series of structures. It is far from perfect but, as I said, there is no perfect structure. We know that from studying other peace processes around the world, the aftermath of conflict and so on.
What I think the British Government has a concern about is the capacity to bring cases to court when crimes may have been committed a long time ago. There are other issues around the debates that have been taking place in Westminster about people who served in Northern Ireland and so on. We have made it clear that we believe the pursuit of justice is the right of families of victims. We also believe in compliance with Article 2. That article requires independent, effective investigations capable of leading to identification and, if appropriate, punishment of those responsible. That is the relevant language. If we are all serious about trying to take forward a process that can work for families, we must take into account the fact that the British Government believes that there are other ways of delivering on commitments on legacy. The Irish Government is somewhat sceptical of that but we recognise that if the British Government has a different perspective, we have to listen to it and then involve all political parties and other stakeholders, particularly families and victim groups, in that discussion. We are committed to doing that.
The alternative to having that discussion is stagnation, which is, effectively, what we have had. Some people will say that the Stormont House Agreement is not working because nothing is happening. I do not accept that description. The agreement is not working because the people who committed to introducing legislation and funding consistent with the agreement have not done it. Of course it is not going to work if legislation to set up the structures and institutions is not passed. Nevertheless, we are and have been in a period of stagnation, lack of progress and endless consultation, if you like, around these issues without getting to the nub of what families want from the process, which is truth, in some cases. Some families do not want to pursue court cases while others do. This is about trying to accommodate the search for truth and justice, and the contribution that search can make to a process of reconciliation which we all know will take a long time but is something we need to be pursuing.
That is our approach. We also have legal considerations in the context of the Irish Constitution. The British Government does not have a written constitution to abide by; we do. There are certain things that may be complicating factors in terms of legal advice from the Attorney General that we will need to study. There is also the Article 2 compliance issue. Those are, in some ways, pressures around the parameters within which we can negotiate and discuss these issues. The most important element here is that we cannot progress legacy on a unilateral basis. This cannot be resolved in Westminster or Dublin. It would be fantastic if it could be resolved in Belfast or anywhere else in Northern Ireland on its own, but it probably cannot be. This is going to involve both Governments trusting each other, working together, having an open mind in terms of finding a way forward and having no preconceived outcomes with a view to then going through a kind of sham process that ticks boxes in terms of consultation.
To be fair, I do not believe we are in that space. My conversations with the Secretary of State on this have been blunt and, at times, difficult, but we have now agreed on a way forward based on being inclusive and on trying to find a way forward. The starting point is the Stormont House Agreement because that is the last agreed position. If we are to move away from elements of that agreement, there must be good reason for doing so. However, it has to be victim centred. That is how we are approaching these talks. I appeal to the parties to help us on that, and not to see this in any way as a party political issue. Hopefully, we will be able to find some consensus on the key pillars that are needed to move this forward.
We would happily move forward on the basis of the Stormont House Agreement, but that is not the space we are in at present. We have to listen, discuss and see if we can find consensus as a basis for a way forward. We owe that to the thousands of families concerned. I say that as somebody who comes from Cork. I know I am on a video call here with people who have experienced, in a very personal way, the trauma and violence of the Troubles, so my job is to try to be a facilitator and actor in this who can help shape a way forward that everybody can buy into and, most importantly, that can be implemented quickly. One of the lessons from the Stormont House Agreement is that if one agrees something in 2014 and one still has not implemented it in 2021, it is no wonder that victims' groups become sceptical, frustrated and angry. In some cases, they are traumatised again when they read in the newspaper that we are moving away from that commitment again.
That is where we are. As I said, I strongly encourage parties to work with us to try to find a way forward for the sake of the victims in particular.