UK's de facto amnesty for killers branded as 'deplorable'
A local TD has branded the unilateral decision by the British Government to abandon the Stormont House Agreement as “utterly deplorable”, in a statement to Dáil Eireann.
The British government has instigated legislation which removes the scope to bring prosecutions when dealing with the conflict. All parties of all political shades in the North vehemently oppose the British government's move.
There are over 1,000 unsolved killings in the North.
Deputy Brendan Smith was appalled by the move by the British.
“It is utterly deplorable that the British Government has made a unilateral decision to abandon the Stormont House Agreement. That was a solemn agreement made between the British and Irish Governments and the political parties represented in Stormont.”
The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “That agreement had the capacity to make progress in dealing with very important and very sensitive issues. Progress on legacy has been delayed for far, far too long. It is a retrograde step that the British have proposed legislation, that is totally unacceptable, to replace the Stormont House Agreement.”
Welcoming the Irish Government’s strong opposition, Deputy Smith stated: “It has united all the political parties on this island, all advocacy groups and all groups that have worked with victims over the years.”
Not fit for purpose
In response, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney said he had met with the Secretary of State on November 2, where the issue was raised.
"In all of our discussions, I have been frank in my view that this Bill, as it stands, is not fit for purpose. It represents a clear move away from the Stormont House Agreement.
“There is near universal opposition to this Bill in Northern Ireland, including from the five main political parties, those representing victims, their families and survivors, as well as a wide range of other groups. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has expressed serious concern about the Bill, as has the UK Parliament’s own joint committee on human rights. The Government has serious doubts about whether this Bill is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.
"We have raised our profound concerns about this Bill directly with British Government, at official and political level, and in the relevant multilateral fora, including the Council of Europe and, most recently, at the universal periodic review of the UK by the UN Human Rights Council.”
Deputy Brendan Smith continued: “As the Minister quite rightly said, it is perpetrator-focused. It is not victim-centred. We cannot successfully deal with legacy issues unless it is victim-centred. It has to be victim-focused. I welcome the recent statements by the Archbishops of Armagh, who made a very cogent and strong argument against the legislation.
"This British legislation proposes that perpetrators of heinous crimes, be they murderers from paramilitary organisations or murderers from the British state forces, be able to give themselves an amnesty from the most heinous crimes, including murders, bombings and maimings of innocent people. Any legislation of that sort cannot be accepted.”
In conclusion, the Cavan and Monaghan TD once again raised the Belturbet bomb which remains unsolved after almost 50 years.
"The Minister will recall that we had many discussions in private, in the House and at Committee regarding the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the terrible bombing at Belturbet in my constituency in December 1972 in which two innocent teenagers were murdered. I, along with families, have campaigned for decades to get to the truth. People have gone about with great grace and dignity to try to get the truth about who carried out murders and serious crimes against their loved ones.
“Under no circumstances could any democratic government put a proposal to families that they abandon everything they fought for over the years and decades. Some people have been fighting for half a century.
“I want the Government to continue its strong opposition to the proposal in question. We cannot accept a situation whereby murderers would be given a de facto amnesty. The Bill should be dropped entirely. We should go back to the Stormont House Agreement that has the potential to deal with the campaigns for justice for the Dublin-Monaghan and Belturbet bombings and the families we all want to assist,” finished the Cavan and Monaghan TD