The British government's announcement of proposals for a victims' and survivors' commissioner has been welcomed by the SDLP, DUP and Alliance parties but criticised as divisive by Sinn Féin.
Secretary of State Paul Murphy said the move was part of a "tailored approach" to dealing with the past.
The government also published a consultation paper on the future of victims' and survivors' services.
One of the commissioner's responsibilities will be to take forward the establishment of a forum envisaged in the joint declaration. Consultation will continue until the end of June.
Angela Smith, NIO minister with responsibility for victims, said the commissioner would articulate the views and interests of victims and survivors.
"The role of the commissioner will be to ensure that victims and survivors voices are heard and they are taken note of; and that victims have the respect that is due to them," Ms Smith said.
Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson backed the appointment proposal which he said was a key demand of his party during negotiations.
Mr Donaldson said: "We envisage a multi-faceted role for a victims commissioner including monitoring the government's victims strategies."
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said what Mr Murphy has said was both contradictory and divisive.
Mr McGuigan said: "On the one hand Paul Murphy is recognising the need to deal with the difficulties faced by victims of the conflict while at the same time rejecting the need to create a independent process and framework to allow people to fully deal with the past and the issues of healing and truth."
SDLP equality spokeswoman Patricia Lewsley said a victims commissioner needed to be an advocate for all victims, and have powers to get results.
"The SDLP wants to see a victims and survivors forum, at which victims and survivors own voices can be heard. We want victims and survivors to be able to design a truth and remembrance process for all victims," she said.
Relatives for Justice said there was a need for a completely independent process.
Mark Thompson, Relatives for Justice director, said Mr Murphy had a statutory duty to consult with all those affected and on whose behalf a commissioner would act but this has not occurred.
"We have consulted with families throughout our community, especially those families who lost children at the hands of the RUC and British army.
"The clear view from these families is that there exists no desire for the British government to appoint a commissioner particularly as it was the British government who were responsible for the killing of their loved ones," Mr Thompson said.
Alliance victims' spokeswoman Eileen Bell said the announcement was welcome but she asked why it has taken so long.
Mrs Bell said: "Many bereaved relatives of the victims of terrorism have been disappointed that their efforts to find justice have been too easily dismissed or ignored by the police, government or paramilitary groups."