Coalition will never take responsibility for Northern Ireland Troubles, claims Labour shadow secretary

By Dean Wilkins

Labour would strive to move forward with Northern Ireland talks to find the truth about the Troubles, revealed shadow secretary Vernon Coaker in Manchester today.

The shadow cabinet member attacked the government for stalling talks and refusing to ease discussions between the nations during his speech at Manchester Central.

Coaker said Labour would ‘heed the call’ from survivors and victims’ families as the country remains ‘deeply divided’.

“A shared future can only happen through building shared spaces and shared experiences with shared prosperity and shared responsibility,” he told delegates at Labour’s annual conference.

“That includes taking responsibility for what happened in the past, because we need to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the death of 3,000 people and injuries and trauma for tens of thousands more.

“We can’t truly move forward until we do. I’ve met so families and friends of those who died during the terrible conflict of the past, who simply want justice and to know the truth about what happened to them or their loved ones.”

Coaker admitted that it would be a struggle for Labour to build bridges but the party would put those affected by the tragedy first.

“Our view is clear, we need a comprehensive, inclusive process to deal with the past, and victims and survivors should be at the heart of it,” he added.

“It won’t be easy. There are many challenges and complications. And there is no consensus about what that process should look like.

“But then there was no consensus at the start of the negotiations that led to the Good Friday agreement.

“The Agreement showed that you have to get people talking and keep people talking until you find a way forward.

“But this Tory-led government says nothing, does nothing.”

He went on to accuse the former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson of refusing to acknowledge the Assembly’s request to ignite talks.

“If I’d been in that position, I’d have heeded the call of political parties and victims and survivors in Northern Ireland and convened talks to discuss how we move forward,” he added.

“That’s the way to do it because unlike the do-nothing Tories, I won’t hide away or shirk my responsibility on this or any other issue, and neither will any future Labour government.”

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