21 July 2021
Families of loved ones killed during the Troubles are united in their opposition to the British government’s ‘amnesty’ proposals.
Last week the government confirmed it intends to bring forward legislation to ban all Troubles-related prosecutions.
The ‘statute of limitations’ will apply equally to all Troubles-related incidents and includes former members of the security forces and ex-paramilitaries.
Announcing the move, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said that 23 years after the Good Friday Agreement, it was ‘the best way to help Northern Ireland move further along the road to reconciliation’.
The plans - which the government wants to introduce later this year - also include an end to all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict, but the paper makes no mention of what might happen to the eight live cases currently before the courts.
The move has been met with pushback from parties across the political divide, victims’ families, and the Irish government - with victims’ groups and campaigners saying the move would end the pursuit of justice for many families.
A local man whose 12-year-old sister was shot dead by a British soldier in Whitecross 45 years ago has been left ‘shocked and devastated’ that her killer may be granted an amnesty.
Michael O’Hare, whose sister Majella was shot in the back by a soldier as she walked to church in Whitecross August 1976, has branded the legacy proposals set out by the Northern Ireland Secretary an ‘utter and unacceptable betrayal’.
Alex Blair, whose 23-year-old brother Donald was one of the 18 British soldiers killed at Narrow Water by the IRA in 1979, branded the amnesty proposals a disgrace, adding that he believes they are an attempt to ‘save money’.
Meanwhile, Eugene Reavey, whose three brothers, John Martin, Brian and Anthony were murdered by the UVF 45 years ago, said victims have been ‘trampled over’ by the proposals and their ‘right to justice’ has been taken away.
Church leaders have also voiced concerns and opposition to the proposals.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said: “It is disturbing that victims and survivors, those who have paid the highest price for the fragile peace we all enjoy today, once more feel marginalised and neglected.”
The head of the Church of Ireland has also spoken out on the controversial plans this week, claiming the legacy of the Troubles is not something that can simply be moved on from.
The Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said the announcement ‘will have created further heartbreak, frustration and anger for victims of the Troubles’.
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