Watch: Sinn Fein claims that UK Government was main Troubles protagonist

The claim is contained in the party’s formal response to a public consultation on proposed mechanisms designed to address the toxic legacy of the conflict.

Senior party figures were pressed on the contention at the launch event at Stormont on Wednesday and whether it was consistent with casualty figures over the 30 years of violence.

Of the 3,600 people killed during the Troubles, the IRA was responsible for more than 1,700 of the deaths.

Around 370 killings were attributed to the security forces, though a number of families whose loved ones were murdered by loyalists allege the state colluded in those deaths as well.

Sinn Fein has said it stands by its description of the UK government as the “main conflict protagonist” in the Troubles.As the publication event at Parliament Building, Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly insisted the UK government had the most responsibility for the conflict.

As the publication event at Parliament Building, Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly insisted the UK government had the most responsibility for the conflict.

“They were the main protagonists, they are a government, they had 31,000 troops, they have a standing army of something like 150,000,” he said.

“So it is not unreasonable that they were the main protagonists, and certainly in terms of what was suffered within the nationalist population.”

Party vice president Michelle O’Neill said reconciliation involved accepting that people had different narratives of what happened.

“When we look at the conflict there are very many different narratives of the past and the first step of reconciliation and moving forward is actually recognising that to be a fact,” she said.

“So we stand over the words in the document, we stand over the proposals in this document, we have taken this work seriously and went through with a fine tooth comb with victims, not just nationalist and republicans, but right across the whole spectrum, because that is the way to move society forward.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster accused Sinn Fein of trying to “distort the truth”.

“During the Troubles, there were over 3,500 deaths, of which 60% were at the hands of republican paramilitaries, mainly the Provisional IRA,” she said.

“A member of the security forces in Northern Ireland was three times more likely to be killed than a member of the IRA.

“This is not about ‘different narratives of the past’.

“It is the continuation of attempts to rewrite history.

“It is not opinions which Sinn Fein seek to change, but hard facts.”

She added: “Only Sinn Fein could put together a response to a consultation on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland and take umbrage at being questioned in relation to the IRA’s role.

“We all should be focused on the future, but it will not heal the wounds of any victim in Northern Ireland nor will it help us move forward if republicans cannot even accept the role they played but wish to shift the blame for all their actions onto the government of the United Kingdom.

”It is not opinions which Sinn Fein seek to change, but hard facts.  Arlene Foster

The Sinn Fein consultation document also restates the party’s opposition to any suggestion that former members of the security forces could be protected from prosecution by a statute of limitations.

A number of Conservative backbenchers continue to lobbying for a statute, despite its omission from the proposals outlined in the Government’s legacy consultation.

Mrs O’Neill said: “Any attempt to bring in a statute of limitations will undermine confidence in the whole range of measures that have been outlined in the consultation.

“Any attempt to bring in a statute of limitations is not acceptable.

“No one should be above the law and any attempt to do that would undermine the whole process.”

Party colleague Linda Dillon added: “It is a real concern that when the legislation comes to the floor of Westminster that there will be attempts to put in amendments around the statute of limitation for state forces.

“That is not only unacceptable, it is illegal, the legal advice has already stated that there can be no statute of limitation for one section involved in the conflict here.”

The consultation is canvassing views on a series of new mechanisms to investigate, document and uncover the truth around killings during the three decades of bloodshed.

It is based on a blueprint agreed by the Stormont parties and UK and Irish Governments in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

The implementation of the agreed mechanisms, which include a new independent investigation unit and a truth recovery body, has been delayed amid ongoing political discord in Northern Ireland.

The consultation is a bid to inject some momentum into efforts to making those new bodies a reality.

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