Northern Ireland news

Labour leader warns legacy solution must start with victims

British Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Louise Haigh (pictured right) met Sara Canning, partner of murdered journalist, Lyra McKee during a visit to Derry yesterday.
Seamus McKinney

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer believes any solution to the legacy issue must start with victims within Northern Ireland.

Following last week's collapse of cases against two former soldiers, the leader of the opposition said his party would not support an amnesty.

Sir Keir was in Derry yesterday where he met with Sara Canning, the partner of murdered journalist, Lyra McKee.

A former head of Crown Prosecution Service, the Labour party leader said the collapse of the cases last week against Soldiers F and B showed that a comprehensive and long-term strategy for dealing with Troubles' legacy issues had still not been found. He said any solution to legacy must have the confidence of those closest to the issue and victims' families must be involved in finding the solution.

Any move to impose an amnesty either directly or through a statute of limitations would also be unacceptable, Sir Keir said.

“I don't agree with that. I think it's the wrong approach and I think they (the Conservative government) are approaching it in the wrong way. I don't believe an amnesty is the right way forward," the told the Irish News

“I also think that any discussion about the way forward should start here with those most directly affected. Talking to victims and their families yesterday, they were profoundly disturbed by the fact that discussions aren't being held with them about the way forward. They recoiled at the idea that politicians in London talked about drawing a line.”

Sir Keir also criticised the current British government's handling of the Brexit issue and the Northern Ireland protocol. He said it was clear that Northern Ireland people did not trust Prime Minister, Boris Johnston or his government as 'honest brokers'.

“The protocol is a difficult issue. There are, I think, practical solutions that could be worked through. But they will only succeed if there is trust in those engaged in the negotiations, particularly the Prime Minister and that ingredient is missing at the moment."

The Labour leader said the protocol must be made to work. He suggested the inclusion of a veterinary agreement was one practical way of making the protocol work.

He said after negotiating the deal, Mr Johnston “mis-sold” it and pretended it didn't have the consequences it had. Sir Keir said the prime minister was now refusing to take full responsibility for making the deal work.

“I appreciate that parties are in difficult places, different communities are in different places but in a discussion like this, it's not just where you start, it's where you can build consensus that matters but for that to happen you have to have real leadership and real trust and that is what is missing in this Prime Minister,” he said.

The Opposition leader also addressed growing calls for a border poll. While he acknowledged that there was provision for a poll in the Good Friday Agreement, he did not believe it “was in sight” at present. The priority at present should be the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and issues such as education and health, Sir Keir said.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news