By Michelle Devane, PA
Northern Ireland Office Minister Lord Caine has held talks with victims’ groups critical of a controversial legal move to offer an effective amnesty for Troubles crimes.
The Tory frontbencher said the changes contained in the legislation would “remain difficult for many”.
He added he was looking forward to “engaging constructively” with victims and other groups to see how their concerns “might be addressed”.
Lord Caine met the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Ian Jeffers as well as a number of advocacy groups representing those most directly impacted by Northern Ireland’s troubled past to discuss the legacy legislation.
The meetings were held in Belfast on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It comes after the Conservative peer said in the House of Lords last month that he was “very happy” to meet with victims’ groups, politicians and the Irish government to see if there were ways the proposed legislation could be improved.
He struck the conciliatory tone as he faced calls by two Labour former Northern Ireland secretaries to rethink the legacy plans, including ditching them all together.
Speaking after the meetings, Lord Caine said: “I made a commitment to engage with victims’ groups, and all the interested parties, regarding the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, and I am glad to fulfil that undertaking.
“Legacy is an extremely complex and sensitive issue, and as a Government we acknowledge that, despite the changes contained in the legislation, it will remain difficult for many.
“I look forward to engaging constructively with victims and other groups regarding their concerns, and how these might be addressed as the Bill proceeds through Parliament.”
The contentious Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill has already been through the House of Commons and now heads to the House of Lords in the autumn.
It proposes a new approach to dealing with the bloody period, with more focus on truth recovery rather than criminal justice.
It would provide the promise of immunity from prosecution for perpetrators who agree to provide information to a new truth body and move to end conflict-related civil cases and inquests.