Northern Ireland news

US congress members to sign legacy letter

Martin Galvin at the mural of Danny Barrett killed by a British soldier in Ardoyne in 1981. Picture by Mal McCann.
Connla Young

MEMBERS of the US congress have signed a letter objecting to the British government's controversial legacy plans.

Although signatures are still being gathered it is understood those who have added their support is already in double figures.

Details of the initiative were revealed by former Noraid director Martin Galvin.

It is understood the letter will be presented to the British ambassador in Washington in the coming days.

Plans by the British government to introduce an amnesty for Troubles-related incidents have sparked cross-community opposition.

The Westminster government is also planning to block all civil cases and end inquests.

Mr Galvin, a prominent US Ancient Order of Hibernians member, is currently visiting the north.

"I am meeting with as many groups as possible to get as much information as possible," he said.

"Irish America, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, we are working on a congressional initiative as well as other things to get the word out about how serious this is.

"The British are intending to bury legacy justice forever along with their victims."

Mr Galvin added that it is important that the US is "aware of this, particularly congress, to put pressure on the British government not to do it".

He also revealed that web-based meetings have already been held involving relatives of people killed during the Troubles and members of congress, including Philadelphia-based representative Brendan Boyle.

Mr Galvin said that the congressman volunteered to "get signatures" and "circulate a letter".

"That is now going around and we expect to get a lot of signatures on it, a number of them have already signed," he said.

"And everyone who sees that letter knows that there is something seriously wrong with the proposals that the British are putting forward."

Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice (RFJ) said:

"The US is the most effective and perhaps the only way in stopping the British government's amnesty proposals and RFJ has been engaged fully in terms seeking direct US intervention.

"These proposals will hollow out rights and protections enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) - they're a direct assault on the GFA, which could only have been achieved with US intervention and support," he said.

A spokesman for the British government said: "The UK Government's proposals for addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland's past do not propose the prohibition of investigations into Troubles-related incidents.

"We recognise that access to information and accountability, via a thorough and robust investigative process, is absolutely vital to victims and survivors, and their families.

"This is the cornerstone of the proposals under which an independent recovery body would support victims and survivors as they navigate the information recovery process.

"The current system for addressing the past is not working well for anybody; most importantly victims and survivors. It is delivering neither justice nor information to the vast majority of families."

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