Northern Ireland news

Troubles troops amnesty announcement timed for day of Ballymurphy Massacre inquest conclusion

Civilians shot dead by the British army in Ballymurphy in 1971 in what came to be known as the Ballymurphy Massacre. Top row, from left, Joseph Corr, Danny Teggart, Eddie Doherty, Fr Hugh Mullan and Frank Quinn. Bottom row from left, Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Phillips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy

THE British government’s plan to announce a bar on Troubles prosecutions on the same day the families of the Ballymurphy Massacre victims hear an inquest’s findings on their loved ones’ killing was last night branded “deliberately insensitive”.

Reports have claimed that proposals for a statute of limitations on offences committed during the conflict, until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, are expected to be included in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.

It has been reported that the ban on future prosecutions would apply to British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland. It has also been suggested that it may extend to former paramilitaries.

The announcement would coincide with the findings of the inquest into the 1971 fatal shooting of 10 people by paratroopers in west Belfast.

Designed to protect British army veterans, a number of whom have faced the courts in recent years for historical offences committed in Northern Ireland, the statute of limitations would represent a departure from legacy mechanisms agreed in 2014’s Stormont House Agreement.

Ian Knox cartoon 7/5/21 

Reports of the move, flagged up yesterday in The Times and The Daily Telegraph on the basis of unattributed briefings, sparked anger on both sides of the border.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned the British government that any unilateral move to bar prosecutions would be a “breach of trust”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described the reports as a “devastating blow”.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said anyone who committed a crime “should be held accountable”. He said it was “appalling” that the proposal had been released to the media and that his party had been given no details.

“You know our position. We are against an amnesty,” he said.

“There should be no evaporation of justice for victims out there.”

Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice said Boris Johnson’s government would “stop at nothing in its pursuit of shielding British soldiers from prosecution”.

He said announcing the plan on the day of the Ballymurphy inquest verdict was an “unimaginable insult”.

“This is deliberately insensitive,” he told The Irish News last night.

“When you think these people can’t go any lower they manage to do so.”

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