Northern Ireland news

Micheál Martin: Departure from Stormont House Agreement on legacy would be 'breach of trust'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) with Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the gardens at Hillsborough Castle during the Prime Minister's visit to Belfast last August. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has warned that any unilateral departure from the Stormont House Agreement would be a "breach of trust".

The Fianna Fáil leader said there has to be adherence to the 2014 agreement on legacy issues, following reports the British government intends to block future prosecutions of soldiers for Troubles offences.

"If people have new ideas to present they have to involve all of the parties, and above all the concerns of victims irrespective of who committed the atrocities. People must be held accountable," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

A spokesman for foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said the government had "discussed with our UK colleagues the commitments of the Stormont House Agreement and strongly advised against any unilateral action on such sensitive issues".

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also said the government is "very alarmed and deeply disturbed that the British government is even considering this move".

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the news the UK will "tear up international agreements on legacy to give British forces immunity from prosecution is a devastating blow to the families of victims of the conflict", describing it as "an attack on the rule of law".

She vowed to lobby the EU and the US "to press the British government to stand by their agreements and international obligations".

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said "any question of an amnesty for someone accused of a crime should not be contemplated".

"In dealing with the past in Northern Ireland we must be clear that access to justice is a vital principle and it should not be removed."

However, he added that soldiers are caught in a "cycle of reinvestigations and prosecutions being brought forward for which they have already been investigated or when there is no new or compelling evidence" and they "deserve the protection against such a process which appears to be guided by how vocal a publicity campaign is rather than justice being served".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the plans as a "betrayal" of victims and survivors and said the failure to speak directly to those who have lost ones was "shabby, cynical and dishonest".

"It is totally appalling... If the British government thinks that denying truth and justice will resolve the difficulties of our past then they have learned nothing from the last 50 years."

UUP justice spokesman Doug Beattie said: "The current arrangements are far from perfect, but I do not believe that the answer lies in bringing about a situation that gives equivalence between the forces of law and order and those self-appointed murderers who sought to bring mayhem and anarchy to this society."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry MP described it as "a shameful course of action from the UK Government".

"It is difficult to see how these proposals will be consistent with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights."

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