Northern Ireland

Stormont parties use secretary of state meeting to spell out opposition to amnesty

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Picture by Hugh Russell
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE LEADERS of Stormont's five main parties yesterday stressed the depth of opposition to British government plans for a de facto Troubles amnesty during a lively online meeting with the sectary of state.

The meeting with the leaders of the DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and Ulster Unionists was called in the aftermath of Wednesday's announcement of a proposed statute of limitations for conflict related offences up to 1998.

Brandon Lewis confirmed to MPs on Wednesday that the controversial plan will "apply equally to all Troubles-related incidents".

Yesterday's meeting comes ahead of a special sitting of the Stormont assembly on Tuesday.

MLAs will return from summer recess for the noon sitting after a recall petition from SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon received the required 30 signatures.

They will debate a motion opposing the British government proposals and calling for the assembly to renew its commitment to address the legacy of the past.

Speaking after yesterday's meeting, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it had confirmed "what we already knew – that the British government are acting in total bad faith".

"They are now clearly intent on walking away from the Stormont House Agreement," she said.

"We are committed to working with the other parties to support victims and survivors to deliver truth and justice."

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said there was "almost unprecedented" opposition to the plans across the political spectrum.

He said there should be "no amnesty for anyone who perpetrated wrongdoing".

The Lagan Valley MP said the Irish government was "in no position to cast judgement".

"Dublin has spectacularly failed to deal with the legacy of republican terrorists using that state as a haven – they have also failed to cooperate with ongoing investigations," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood there was a "strong consensus" among the parties opposing the amnesty proposal.

"It is pathetic that Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis pushed ahead with this announcement before the consultation and engagement process with political parties and victims had begun in any serious way," he said.

"This process cannot have a predetermined outcome that fails to deliver truth, justice, accountability and acknowledgement that victims and survivors need."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said any solution to the legacy issue needed to be "based on the rule of law and due process".

"However, we will not provide cover for anything that amounts to an amnesty," she said.

"I was clear in the meeting this process has to be centered on victims, who have been re-traumatised this week thanks to the actions of the UK government."

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said his party would not be supporting a statute of limitations.

"The UK government must widen their proposals to incorporate a criminal justice element or they will risk inflicting more pain on innocent victims whose families have already sacrificed so much," he said.

Labour's Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh said it would be "deeply divisive" for the British government to press ahead with the proposals.

"A legacy solution has to be done with the victims, people and communities of Northern Ireland - not to them," she said.