SDLP Leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell has said the time has come for a comprehensive and ethical examination of the past.
And the south Belfast MP said it needed to be looked at it in a way which meets the needs of survivors and victims.
Dr McDonnell was speaking after the SDLP published its paper on Tuesday on the past “A comprehensive truth process and the ethical way forward”.
The document was published a week after party colleague and Stormont Environment Minister Alex Attwood approved plans for the Maze Peace Centre on the site of the former top security jail.
Dr Mc Donnell said: “Last week’s debate around the Maze Peace Centre brought into focus the pressing need to address our past.
“The SDLP believes that there are now a growing number of voices speaking up and that the past must now be comprehensively addressed.
“National reconciliation and healing is an essential element of the future. It has and will have many expressions. Addressing the legacy of the years of terror and state violence is a non-negotiable element of reconciliation and healing.”
He said that reconciliation was a “great outstanding issue” from Good Friday Agreement which still needed to be delivered.
“The Agreement is explicit; it requires all political leaders to work to put reconciliation at the heart of our institutions and our politics. Today it is neither.
“Our collective failure to address this commitment is undermining this society’s opportunity to grow and prosper. It is also allowing the conditions where sectarianism festers to continue.
“Reconciliation is about more than improved relations between our communities. It is about addressing the broken relations, and understanding the causes of the divisions.
“This means tackling the causes of sectarianism and accepting that truth, justice and reconciliation are interlinked and interdependent. There will be no reconciliation without truth and no truth without reconciliation.
“We also believe there is a direct connection between reconciliation and prosperity. A failure to deal with the past in an ethical way and build a reconciled society is stunting our opportunity to build a diverse and vibrant economy.
“Dealing with our past in an ethical and comprehensive way is a requirement of reconciliation. We renew our call today on all leaders to reengage in serious debate about reconciliation and the past.
“If we are to see our society grow and prosper then we urgently need to address the scars of division and pursue a meaningful reconciliation process on this island,” added Dr McDonnell.