SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan says there must be no private deal between the British government and Sinn Féin on the past.
He called for the publication of future clauses to be properly scrutinised by parliament and the public at large in Northern Ireland – particularly victims.
Questioning the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers in the House of Commons today, Mr Durkan said: “Will the Secretary of State accept that while many of us have misgivings with parts of the Agreement and parts of what isn’t in the Agreement, that in no way detracts from our support for positive aspects which we have long advocated and advocated in the negotiations in terms of the whole community approach to paramilitaries and all parties signing up to a uniform position in relation to eradicating all paramilitarism from our society?
“The Secretary of State will know she said at the Talks and she said publicly, consistently, that there wouldn’t be an agreement on the past without an agreement on welfare reform – that that was the hard message for Sinn Féin and the SDLP.
“We now end up apparently with an agreement on welfare reform and still no agreement on the past – and people want to know how that came about?
“In terms of where we are on the past, would the Secretary of State consider – on a without prejudice basis – publishing clauses and committing them to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses so that they can be the subject – not of some sort of private abeyance to be sorted out between yourself and Sinn Féin – but properly considered by members of both Houses here and by the public in Northern Ireland – particularly victims?”
Ms Villiers replied: “We will certainly give consideration to the proposals the hon. gentleman puts forward.
“I argued to keep legacy in – but we couldn’t get consensus on that and everyone to sign up to that. But I will continue to strive to get these bodies set up. It is crucially important for victims and survivors that we do.
“Lastly, I would pay tribute to the work that his party played in the Talks process – particularly on the legacy matters but also on paramilitaries as well.
“I think the SDLP’s call for a whole community approach to ending paramilitarism is one which will resonate in this House and across Northern Ireland.”