Northern Ireland

Troubles families urged to ignore British government legacy body until after election

Many victims, and relatives of those who died during the Troubles, are strongly opposed to the ICRIR

Families gather at the office of Relatives for Justice for the launch of a booklet about the ICRIR (Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery). PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Relatives for Justice are urging relatives not to engage with the British government established ICRIR. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

A campaign group is urging victims and relatives of people killed during the Troubles not to engage with a controversial body set up by the British government to investigate the past until after the Westminster election in July.

Relatives for Justice has asked families they work with to hold off engaging with the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

Responsibility for investigating all legacy cases were transferred to the commission after the British government’s contentious Legacy Act was introduced on May 1.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act ended all civil cases and inquests that were not at their findings stage.

The chief commissioner of the new body is former Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, while ex-senior police officer Peter Sheridan heads its investigations.

Many victims, and relatives of those who died during the Troubles, are strongly opposed to the ICRIR and believe it is part of British government attempts to protect state participants from accountability.

In February the High Court in Belfast ruled that parts of the legacy legislation are unlawful, including offering conditional immunity from prosecution for Troubles-era offences and shutting down civil actions.

The British government is currently challenging the court’s decision while a cross-appeal has also been launched over a separate ruling that the ICRIR has sufficient independence and powers to effectively investigate Troubles-related deaths and offences.

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who is expected to be the north’s next secretary of state, has said he will “repeal and replace” the act if his party wins July’s Westminster election.

Relatives for Justice, which represents the families of hundreds of victims, has launched a booklet raising concerns about the work of the ICRIR.

In the document the group says the Irish government should only pause its interstate action against Britain if Labour fulfils the commitments it has made.

The ‘Facts about the ICRIR’ document provides background information about the body.

The group has also urged families to “reflect and await the outcome of the British general election, which is only a matter of weeks away” adding that “the legacy landscape could well change for the better for victims and survivors”.

Mark Thompson, RFJ chief executive, highlighted Labour’s pledge to appeal the Legacy Act.

“Effectively, that would mean that the ICRIR would go as it is a core part of the Tory amnesty agenda,” he said.

“A changed political landscape would be to the advantage of families and it is within this space that we have the opportunity to ensure human rights compliant legacy mechanisms are put in place that have the full support and confidence of all victims and survivors.

“The ICRIR also know this and are now desperately seeking to gain traction in a bid to survive, despite embracing the shameful Tory legacy bill in all its heinous and harmful forms.”

Mr Thompson repeated the call not to engage with the “ICRIR and to await the outcome of the British general election in order to maximise this opportunity in the broader interests of all victims”.

The ICRIR was contacted.