‘Truth panel’ provokes unionist anger

There were angry clashes in Belfast today before the publication of an official report for the British government on dealing with issues of truth and reconciliation in the North.

There appeared little prospect of either this morning as unionists expressed their fury at a plan to end the traditional hierarchy of victims, a detail which was selectively leaked on Friday.

Hardliners have been expressing their outrage at a proposal to pay twelve thousand pounds equally to the families of all those who died in the conflict.

Members of the Orange Order wearing their sashes ominously stood at the front of the stage at the launch of the document in the Europa Hotel today, shouting about “blood money”.

Others who had gathered in the hall demanded that the families of IRA Volunteers be excluded from any reconciliation process.

At one stage the situation threatened to turn violent as bereaved relatives stood head-to-head pointing fingers at one another, trading accusations over the deaths of their loved ones.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, who was sitting in the hall, was among those targeted by a vocal unionist demonstration.

Former member of the Belfast Assembly Cedric Wilson was one of the most combustible of the demonstrators and was threatened with arrest.

Mr Allister, leader of extreme unionist party the Traditional Unionist Voice, and anti-republican lobbyist Willie Frazer were also involved.

There were appeals for calm and expulsion warnings before the arrival of the members of Britain’s ‘Consultative Group on the Past, Lord Eames and Dennis Bradley.

The event eventually got under way with an introduction from South African mediator Brian Currin, who was involved in the truce recovery process in that country.

“The peace process, as we well know, has a long, long journey to go,” he said.

Other proposals by Britain’s unilaterally appointed ‘truth panel’ include banning future inquiries into past actions and ‘drawing a line’ under the conflict in five years time.

Sinn Féin has said it will examine the report before making comment.

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