A FERMANAGH-BASED victims’ group met with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, in a meeting shortly before Christmas that was described as “robust”, marking the first time the Secretary had met with any victims’ group since March.

South East Fermanagh Foundation’s (SEFF) Director of Services, Kenny Donaldson, said the parties held an extremely robust exchange of views around the Stormont House Agreement.

The meeting also raised mental health services, The Troubles Permanent Disablement Pension, teaching about The Troubles within schools, and wider civic settings across both sides of the Irish Sea.

Mr. Donaldson said it also raised the need for more robust terrorism glorification legislation, and the will to then hold accountable those who would commit breaches.

He also said the meeting raised an acknowledgements process at the beginning of any potential new Legacy process, where the two states – complete with terror organisations, and their political annexes – acknowledge the illegitimacy of the violence perpetrated over the years of The Troubles.

SEFF were represented by Mr. Donaldson; Pete Murtagh, Advocacy manager; and representatives of the families of Constable Graham and Constable Johnston, who were killed by the Provisional IRA in Lurgan in 1997.

Mr. Donaldson said: “We held an extremely robust exchange of views in which we reiterated to [Mr. Lewis] that The Stormont House Agreement is past-tense; it did not and does not command confidence across the community, and we now must focus on what is possible from this point forward.

“Louie Johnston and Abigail Graham caused [Mr. Lewis] to directly engage with the realities and legacy faced by families impacted by terrorism – that legacy is present-tense, not past-tense.

“We brought our agenda for change and how we believe that Legacy issues can and should be addressed, particularly offering our perspective on a viable investigative and case review model.

“The LIB [Legacy Investigation Branch] can and should be resourced with additional governance checks and protocols, and empowered to fulfil the role of investigating and reviewing crime. The PSNI should not abdicate its responsibilities in this regard.

“We’re realistic that for those who allege wrongdoing by the state, such cases could be dealt with by an external force to ensure confidence,” he said.

Mr. Donaldson said the Secretary of State committed to further detailed engagement with SEFF and he stressed the need for the Government to now charter a pathway on Legacy issues with objectives and a timeline with milestones.