The legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House must be implemented to guarantee respect for all – By Michelle O’Neill

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There will always be different narratives of our past and accepting that is crucial to building the future.

Today, Sinn Féin published our detailed submission to the public consultation on planned legislation to address the legacy of the conflict.

‘Engaging With the Past: Building for the Future’ is a comprehensive document which has been compiled after long and intensive engagement with victims and survivors from right across the spectrum.

It is aimed at moving us forward and giving families access to mechanisms which they have been demanding time and time again.

The past will always be a contested space and we all have different narratives but the first step in reconciliation and moving forward is actually recognising that to be the fact.

We can either do that or we can continue re-fighting old battles.

I choose to try and build a better future. I choose to recognise the problems of the past but I choose to try to help heal the wounds of the past and actually bring us into a better space that allows all victims to have some sort of closure.

The full implementation of legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House is key to achieving that and realising the potential of the peace process.

Over many years, I have engaged with and listened to victims from right across the political spectrum recount countless stories of pain, injury and loss.

I want families to know that we in Sinn Féin have listened to their stories of injury and loss, their need for acknowledgement and their hopes for a better future.

Their needs. Their hopes. Their rights have informed our approach to the legacy consultation.

Implementing and participating in the legacy mechanisms will undoubtedly be an immensely difficult and painful process for families seeking answers into the death of a loved one, those injured, and society more generally.

We have to get it right. Families have faced too many false dawns and the legislation that emerges from this consultation must put their needs at the centre, not the needs of vested or political interests.

Notwithstanding the risks, the Stormont House Agreement legacy architecture has the potential to comprehensively engage with the past and facilitate a wider conversation about the future and building a society defined by the protection of rights for all.

The legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House must be implemented and they must be operated on the basis of equality, dignity and respect for all.

That will create the very real potential to write the words of a new chapter of the peace process.

Such an opportunity must not be squandered.

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