Northern Ireland news

‘Historic day' as parties sign document to reject Troubles amnesty plans

 Julie Hambleton (centre right) speaking outside Belfast City Hall after a meeting of victims of the Troubles with local political parties and from the Republic of Ireland over their opposition to British Government plans to end all troubles related prosecutions. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Cate McCurry, PA

Representatives from all the major parties, north and south, have signed a document outlining their rejection of the UK Government proposals to introduce an “amnesty” for legacy killings.

Families of Troubles victims hailed the meeting as a “historic day”.

The document, signed by all the main parties in Belfast and Dublin, states that they reject the British Government’s proposals on dealing with the past, including amnesty for those accused of murder.

A delegation of Irish TDs and senators – as well as members of the DUP, Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance – met the cross-community group of victims’ campaigners today.

Among the signatories included Fianna Faíl senator Mark Daly, Labour’s Brendan Howlin, Fine Gael senator Emer Currie, Green Party TD Patrick Costello, and Fianna Faíl’s James Lawless, as well as SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly and DUP MP Jim Shannon.

Speaking outside Belfast City Hall, Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jr was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, said the document is as important as the Good Friday Agreement.

He said: “The British Government has no choice now. Every major political party in Ireland now support this, they can’t ignore that. The victims’ groups in England is supporting us as well.

“People in the UK and Ireland support this. Boris Johnson is taking on all of the people now.

“It’s not an orange or green issue, or unionist or nationalist, it is the victims.

“I want to see Dublin parties and the Taoiseach on board, I want to see the EU on board and the Americans come on board.”

In July, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis announced plans for a statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

The proposals, which Mr Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles”, would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister was killed in the IRA’s Birmingham pub bombings, said that victims stand as one.

Ms Hambleton, who founded the of the Birmingham bombings campaign group Justice for the 21, added: “We stand as a voice for those who are not here.

“It is obscene, there is is no justification, no moral or ethical justification for any government, particularly in Westernised society, to try and implement such a piece of law.

“They are looking to introduce and whitewash centuries of legislation and reintroduce new laws that will allow mass murderers to continue to have their liberty and come to any of our cities and kill with impunity without any any fear of retribution.

“Is that the kind of society that current generations and future generations want to have for their children? Where any terrorist organisation, no matter who they are, can come to our cites and kill on the basis of a political argument and know they will never serve time because the British Government have stated that if other paramilitaries can get away with it, then why can’t we?

“They are setting a precedent that will make us the laughing stock of the world.

“We are here to fight for them because their lives and deaths matter to us.”

Billy McManus, whose father was killed in the loyalist attack on Sean Graham bookmakers, said there are plans to hold a demonstration outside Downing Street next month.

Mr McManus said the proposed legislation makes a “mockery” of the thousands of people who were killed during the Troubles.

“It dances on the graves of our loved ones who were murdered,” he added.

“Our voices definitely will be heard. We all stand together to ensure this legislation does not go through.”

 Ireland's major parties sign document rejecting Troubles amnesty plans

John Teggart, whose father Danny was killed in the Ballymurphy massacre, described it an a historic day.

“We have victims from all avenues of those who were murdered during the Troubles,” he said.

“Today we have cross-community groups, and all political parties on both sides of the border, this is the first it has ever happened.

“We thank those who made the effort – this is only the first step. This (legislation) can be stopped.”

Senator Daly, Cathaoirleach (chair) of Seanad, said: “We believes victims and their families are entitled to the justice, truth and accountability they deserve.

“I have spoken to members of the European Parliament, the (US) Congress, to get their support and they are willing to support the victims and families to ensure that they get justice that they deserve.”

Mr Shannon said: “Our party is very clear that we are opposing this legislation. We have expressed that opinion to senior Conservative MPs.”

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