Commission plan to heal wounds of Irish terror
Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has said that he is strongly in favour of a South-African-style commission which would see those who carried out the violence on both sides admit the pain and suffering they caused to victims and their families.
In addition, hopes have risen that the IRA, which declared an end to its 33-year war last week, will help relatives trace the 'disappeared' - people who were abducted and killed by the terror organisation without their families ever knowing their fates.
The government has been consulting on a new strategy for victims, their carers and children, who may have grown up traumatised by what happened during the Troubles.
Hain said last night: "It is vital to moving forward that those who have lost loved ones or suffered injuries themselves get access to the support and services they need. It is about official acknowledgment on the part of those responsible. The idea of a victims' commission has a lot of merit."
He added: "This plan would draw on the experience in South Africa, where a truth and reconciliation commission collected testimony from victims and confessions from perpetrators, who were granted amnesty from prosecution.
"However, it would be impossible to copy the South African idea exactly because the Northern Irish community was divided in a totally different way."
Nevertheless, the plans would involve directly confronting a painful past.
Meanwhile, the British and Irish governments have been accused of throwing concessions at Sinn Fein on the back of an IRA statement which has "failed" to answer basic questions.
After Thursday's declaration by the Provisionals that they had ended their armed campaign and would complete a disarmament programme, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey accused London and Dublin of "fawning around" Republicans on the back of a vague announcement.
"Does this mean the IRA is finished and has gone away for good?" Empey asked. Does this mean that all weapons will be given up? Does this mean criminal activity is to be ended forthwith and not privatised or outsourced to criminal elements?
"As far as the Ulster Unionist party is concerned, these fundamental questions remain unanswered."