Irish nationalists reject Stormont House Agreement bill



SDLP MLA Alex Attwood

Legislation proposed by the UK government to break the political deadlock in Northern Ireland has been rejected by Irish nationalists.

A draft copy of the Northern Ireland (Stormont House Agreement) Bill shared with political parties has been rejected by Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP), both of whom said it went against the spirit of the Agreement.

The legislation details how the previously announced Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and Oral History Archive would operate.

It also gives the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the power to block the release of information by those bodies on the grounds of national security.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office said the draft bill “represents our best efforts to deal with the past and put the needs of victims and survivors first”.

However, both nationalist parties rejected the provisions of the bill.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly recently said: “Substantial changes are needed to get back to what was agreed, particularly around maximum disclosure for families.

“It is clear from reading this document that the focus of the British government appears to remain on hiding the truth rather than on full disclosure.”

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood has now told BBC News: “Northern Ireland has bespoke mechanisms to dealing with issues of disclosure and the British government now drives a coach and horses through that by saying they will decide what information can and cannot be shared.”

He added: “We have told the British government: ‘Do not table this bill’. That’s pretty severe advice to the British government given the sensitivity of this issue.”

Talks between Northern Ireland’s major parties are set to continue.