LEGISLATION WILL today be introduced at Westminster that seeks to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill will put in place investigation and information recovery processes to provide answers for families of those who were killed during the Troubles.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis said independent investigations will be at the heart of the approach, "supported by an ambitious and comprehensive oral history programme that will allow people to tell their stories and share their experiences."
This new independent body, known as the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR), will conduct investigations, consistent with international obligations "to provide answers to those who want them, in a process supported by full state disclosure and with the power to compel witnesses."
Previous plans to grant automatic immunity, which were heavily criticised, have also been scrapped.
The ICRIR will now only grant immunity to individuals who cooperate, "which provides the best route to give victims and their families answers they have sought for years as well as giving our veterans the certainty they deserve," Lewis said.
Those who do not cooperate with the independent body will not be granted immunity, and will remain liable to prosecution should sufficient evidence exist, or come to light.
The legislation is said to address the Troubles "comprehensively and fairly," and comply "fully with international human rights obligations."
Lewis also announced the UK Government’s intention to commission an Official History relating to the Troubles.
Conducted by independent historians, and underpinned by unprecedented access to the UK documentary record, this will provide an "authoritative and in-depth examination" of the UK Government’s policy towards Northern Ireland during the conflict.
“The years of the Troubles were an awful period in our history with tragic loss of life across communities," Lewis said.
"After the signing of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, challenging compromises were rightly made in support of the peace process – addressing the legacy of the Troubles comprehensively and fairly is another such step forward."
The Government also says it is taking forward a range of non-legislative measures that will help to develop a clearer understanding of what happened during the Troubles. This will be supported by a digitisation project, making official archives more accessible to the public.