What we made clear to the SoS was that the timing of the Written Ministerial Statement (18 March) setting out proposals which would see the majority of legacy cases permanently closed just as Covid lockdown was biting was appalling.
Many already vulnerable victims and survivors were being told that up to 90% of cases would be closed forever following a speedy desk top review just as they went into isolation and WAVE was shutting our usual services and therefore was unable to offer face to face counselling.
We told him that it would be immoral to push legislation through under the cover of Covid-19.
At no stage did we even remotely suggest that engagement on this unilateral departure from the Stormont House Agreement should be ‘paused’.
Is he seriously suggesting that we would want victims and survivors to swing in the wind and do nothing on their behalf in the aftermath of this bolt from the blue, toxic legacy bombshell?
We wrote to the SoS in May asking for more detail on the proposals set out in the WMS.
Why would we do that if we didn’t want him to engage with us and others?
This was the response from Minister Robin Walker on 27 May 2020.
‘The department, at both official and ministerial level, are committed to continuing this engagement in the coming weeks and hope to share further detail in due course but, as you will appreciate, the wider context in which we all are currently working is very challenging and has had an impact on our planned timetable. Having begun this engagement process with key partners we remain committed to making progress on this important issue and delivering legislation with victims and their needs at the heart of it’.
Twice over the summer we asked officials where this ‘intensive engagement’ was and if we could see any papers that would give us something beyond the WMS for us to engage with.
They were unable to give us anything beyond pointing to the two page WMS.
WAVE gave evidence to NIAC on 1 July making the point to the Committee that we had heard nothing from the SoS since March.
He did not say then that we had asked him not to engage for the very good reason that we had not.
Indeed he wrote to NIAC in September to say that there was ‘sensitive engagement with key stakeholders’ throughout the month!
It is frankly pathetic that the SoS should seek to scapegoat WAVE and by extension victims’ and survivors’ for nearly nine months of his own inaction.