Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Ceisteanna (61)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

61. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the outcome of the most recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in relation to legacy issues and the urgent need to provide proper supports for victims and survivors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46427/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework.

At the meetings of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and in our regular bilateral meetings, I have strongly emphasised to the Secretary of State the urgency of definitively moving ahead to a legislative phase to get the Stormont House bodies established. I will meet the Secretary of State later this week and I will again be raising legacy issues with him, including my concerns about recent media reports about possible pledges that have arisen in the context of the UK general election.

The Stormont House Agreement provides a comprehensive set of institutions to deal with legacy issues, in a way that can meet the legitimate needs and expectations of victims and survivors and support closure and reconciliation for those communities most affected by the Troubles.

Following the UK general election, it is essential that there be a definitive step forward by the UK Government to get this legacy framework that was agreed in 2014 established in legislation, and up and running for victims and survivors, without any further delay.

The Stormont House Agreement also includes provisions in respect of services and supports for victims in Northern Ireland and the Agreement in addition affirms that the needs of victims who do not live in Northern Ireland should be recognised.

On 22 October, the UK Government commenced a public consultation on proposals for a victims' payment, further to a commitment in the Stormont House Agreement and a UK legislative provision in July that requires regulations to establish a UK scheme to be in place by end-May 2020.

In this jurisdiction, the Programme for Government commits to maintaining the needs of the victims and their survivors at the core of our approach as we implement the Stormont House Agreement.

The Government contributes significantly to the EU PEACE IV programme (2014 - 2020), and which includes a specific action on Victims and Survivors. This action is delivered by the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland, which provides funding supports to organisations to employ Health and Wellbeing Case Managers, Health and Wellbeing Caseworkers, Advocacy Case Managers and Advocacy Caseworkers for victims and survivors irrespective of their place of residence.

A Remembrance Commission was established by the Government in 2003 and operated a Scheme of Acknowledgement, Remembrance and Assistance for Victims of the Troubles in this jurisdiction. The Commission's term of appointment formally came to an end on 31 October 2008 and the Commission disbursed over €6.5m to victims and their families in this time. On the conclusion of the Commission's term of appointment, special arrangements were made to ensure that victims resident in the jurisdiction who require on-going medical treatment for injuries sustained in bombings and other incidents arising from the Troubles may have certain costs reimbursed through the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Minister for Justice and Equality retains responsibility for victims' issues in this jurisdiction.

The Government is deeply conscious of the enduring suffering and hardship that survivors of Troubles-related attacks bear wherever they are resident. As the Government continues work to implement the legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement, we will maintain our engagement with victims and survivors groups and representatives to take account of their views and needs.

The Government will also continue to work to support the full and prompt implementation of the Stormont House legacy framework, to provide families with a way to access whatever truth and justice that is possible in their cases, and as a very necessary step in achieving a fully reconciled society.