Northern Ireland news

Son of murdered RUC officer says Troubles amnesty a 'slap across the face'

David Johnston (left) and John Graham were community policemen murdered side by side near Lurgan RUC station. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

THE son of an RUC officer murdered alongside his colleague in 1997 said the British government's plans for a Troubles amnesty are "another slap across the face".

Constables David Johnston and John Graham were shot dead on foot patrol in Lurgan in June 1997.

The officers were killed at Church Walk in the town, a month before the IRA renewed its ceasefire.

The Good Friday Agreement was signed the following year.

Mr Johnston's son Louie said the British government's plans had created a "hierarchy of murder".

Under the proposals, announced on Wednesday, Troubles-related prosecutions will end.

The proposals also involve a halt on Troubles-related inquests and the potential for recourse through the civil courts.

In a statement released through victims' group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), Mr Johnston said that under the government's plans "murder by terrorists in the context of the period between the sixties-nineties is of lesser value than murder by terrorists from 1998 onwards".

"When will Boris Johnson’s government stand for what is morally right?" he said.

"Instead of standing firm on the intrinsic moral law adhered to by every decent human being in Northern Ireland and around the world, that violence is not the answer and that murder is completely wrong and unjustifiable, the UK government has adopted the position of cheerleader for terrorism.

"The UK government is now terrorism's biggest enabler as it has stripped all consequences for unrepentant terrorists.

"Completely free of consequence, the terrorist will now find freedom of conscience, under the law."

Mr Johnston said Secretary of State Brandon Lewis had not listened to the concerns of victims.

"Brandon, can you imagine a situation where you and your brother wrap your arms around your father at aged seven and three years of age to say goodbye as he left for work on a warm summer's day, unknowing that it will be the last embrace you will ever receive from him?" he said.

"This man so full of love, of life and of laughter, has been ripped away from your family.

"Can you imagine what it is like to have an empty seat at every wedding, graduation, Christmas and birthday, or to have to sit and explain to your own son why he does not have his grandfather?

"You have not walked the shoes the victim has walked."

Mr Johnston said victims' families would continue to fight for justice.

He appealed to Mr Lewis and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to change the plans.

"Mr Secretary of State, Mr Prime Minister, I resoundingly and emphatically say to you tonight with every fibre of my being - let justice prevail, though the heavens may fall," he said.

In 1997, prominent Lurgan republican Colin Duffy was accused of the constables' murders.

Months later the charges were dropped because the director of public prosecutions said the evidence was insufficient for a reasonable prospect of a conviction.

Colin Duffy has always denied any involvement.

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