Northern Ireland

Ex-Police Ombudsman official turned Franciscan Friar raises concerns about Legacy Act at UN

Bro Eunan McMullan spoke on behalf of Franciscans International human rights group

Bro Eunan McMullan
Bro Eunan McMullan

A former senior official at the Police Ombudsman’s Office who became a Franciscan Friar has raised concerns about the British government’s controversial Legacy Act at the United Nations.

Brother Eunan McMullan recently spoke about the Legacy Act and UK Immigration Act on behalf of Franciscans International, a respected human rights group, during an address to the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The contentious Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act passed into law last September.

Under the act the British government had planned to end all Troubles-related civil cases and halt inquests that are not at their findings stage by May 1.

The legislation also included proposals for immunity in some Troubles-linked cases.

Last month a High Court judge ruled that conditional immunity and plans to close down some civil actions are unlawful.

Bro McMullan, a former Director of Legal Services at the Police Ombudsman’s office, joined the Franciscan Order in Assisi, Italy, in 2004.

In his address Bro McMullan issued a joint statement on behalf of Franciscans International and Edmund Rice International, another Catholic non-governmental organisation.

“Regarding the Legacy Act of 2023 UK legislation was found by the High Court in be incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and Windsor Framework in no fewer than five aspects,” he said.

“Whilst we welcome the abandonment of the UK’s plan to abolish the Human Rights Act, the state must fully implement its international human rights obligations.”

Earlier, Bro McMullan expressed concern about “the UK’s failure to fulfil its international legal obligations, including in regard to migration and asylum”.

He also raised the Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which aims to transport asylum seekers to east Africa.

In relation to the Illegal Migration Act he said the UK government did not “follow the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission”, which he pointed out has taken a judicial review to its compatibility with the ECHR and Windsor Framework.

Before entering religious life Br McMullan worked in criminal and civil law as a barrister in Belfast.

He also spent over a decade in the field of discrimination law with the Fair Employment Commission - later the Equality Commission, where he managed a team of lawyers.

In 2001 he joined the Police Ombudsman’s office as director of legal services and worked alongside ex-ombudsman, Baroness Nuala O’Loan.

While there he was involved in several high-profile cases.