TERRORISTS who killed, bombed and maimed during the Troubles should be offered an amnesty to stop the North from being "stalked" by its past, a former Northern Ireland secretary has claimed.
Peter Hain called for an end to all conflict-related prosecutions and said that while he "understood" that the proposal would make victims and survivors of the Troubles "desperately angry", he argued it was vital for the future of the province.
His call came as President Michael D Higgins prepared to arrive in London today.
Mr Hain – who served as Northern Ireland secretary from 2005-2007 under former British prime minister Tony Blair – sparked controversy last month when he suggested that British soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday killings, which saw the deaths of 14 civilians at a civil rights march in Derry 1972, should not be prosecuted.
His comments were criticised by the NI Justice Minister David Ford, while Sinn Fein called his words "ill-judged".
Now Mr Hain has gone further and extended his proposed "amnesty" across the board.
"I think there should be an end to all conflict-related prosecutions," he said to 'The Times' in London.
"That should apply to cases pre-dating the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This is not desirable in a normal situation . . . but the Troubles were never normal.
"You can keep going back all the time and you can keep looking over your shoulder or turning around all the time but what that does is take you away from addressing the issues of now and the issues of the future," Mr Hain said.
He said political leaders in Northern Ireland urgently need to face the legacy of the conflict amid signs that dissident republicans are taking inspiration from the Taliban in using homemade rockets against the police.
And Mr Hain warned: "This is not going to go away. It's going to continue stalking the first minister, the deputy first minister and the entire body politic there.
"The past just stalks them and they're either going to confront it and deal with it together or they're going to continue to be stalked by it."