Editorial - One step forward, two steps back

Once again the failure to effectively deal with the issues of the past has threatened to stall progress in the political process.

The ongoing row over attempts to block people convicted of Troubles-related offences from serving as ministerial advisors at Stormont has again highlighted the need to deal with one of the most important legacies of the conflict: victims.

It may be an uncomfortable truth for many, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the Troubles, but ex-prisoners can also be regarded as victims of the decades of conflict witnessed in the North.

This is certainly a difficult reality for some people to face but such difficulties must be confronted if we are to move forward.

Allowing former prisoners to serve as a special advisor is not a reward for past offences and should not be regarded as such.

Former prisoners play important, and often unnoticed, roles in public life every day as community leaders, teachers, business people, and politicians.

The fact that those chosen by the electorate to lead the institutions at Stormont, the First and Deputy First Ministers, both have Troubles-era convictions exposes the lie that ex-prisoners are not capable of making a meaningful contribution to political life.

Understandably, the early release of republican and loyalist paramilitary prisoners - some of whom were involved in atrocities - in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement was not easy for many but it was an important step on the road to stability.

To release those prisoners and then abandon them to the margins of society by copper-fastening discrimination in legislation is a backward step.