Amnesty plans not backed to ‘legitimately proceed’ – Labor

Labor told the government that its plan of amnesty on Troubles-era lawsuits had not received enough support to “legitimately proceed”.

Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State Peter Kyle has written to his counterpart Brandon Lewis calling for the proposals to be abandoned and a new way of tackling heritage issues.

Mr Kyle said the current course of action “offers clear benefits to those who commit terrorist acts, but nothing to those who suffer at their hands”.

His intervention came after a visit to Belfast, his first as shadow secretary, where he met with victims of the Troubles violence.

However it is quite clear that your current proposals have failed to garner sufficient support to legitimately proceed within Northern Ireland and our international partnersPeter Kyle

In the letter seen by the PA news agency, Mr Kyle told Mr Lewis that the plans were “wrong”, “provoking a crisis” and that Northern Ireland does not even have “minority support”.

He wrote: “Finding ways to address the legacy issues owed by the Troubles for Northern Ireland is a long-standing and major political challenge.

“It is entirely correct that you use your position as Secretary of State to seek progress in this area.

“While it is clear that your current proposals have failed to garner sufficient support to legitimately proceed within Northern Ireland and our international partners.

“There is also no minority support for your proposals from residents of Northern Ireland, political parties, human rights organizations or groups of victims.”

In July last year, the government published a command paper outlining its intention to restrict future prosecutions of military veterans and former paramedics for incidents of troubles prior to April 1998.

The proposal, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the troubles”, would also end all heritage inquiries and civil works.

The proposals are opposed by all the main parties of Stormont, the Irish government and several victims’ groups.

Mr. Kyle underlined the strong opposition to the proposals among the victims he met in Belfast.

close

The Time for Truth campaign demonstrated outside the courts in Belfast on a national day of action across Ireland against the British government’s proposals to deal with the past (Rebecca Black/PA)

“One person all felt that the general apology given through Westminster without meaningful consultation with the victims was wrong and was provoking distress,” he said.

“I met an innocent man who was shot six times and left for dead to live next to someone being targeted.

“He had an interview with the police from his hospital bed, but heard nothing in the decades that followed.

“He told me of his desire to engage in a process that could heal some of the scars of the time and enable him to resolve himself for the criminal violence committed against him.

“But he also asked me what right does a person in Westminster have to pass a law that grants clemency to the person who shot the victim, without any input from him?

“Your present action provides clear benefits to those who committed acts of terror, but nothing to those who suffered at their hands. This is wrong.”

Mr Kyle also noted strong opposition to the Irish government’s plans.

He wrote: “The Government of the Republic of Ireland is compelled to publicly condemn these measures.

“Their Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said of your proposals ‘The Irish government is very clear, privately and publicly, that we cannot support, that would be a big mistake’.

“As you are aware, there has been a public consensus between the UK and the ROI on heritage issues since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

“It was a deeply wrong step to proceed on a path that instigated such rebuke.”

A new process must be started. Victims need to be heard and it is unfair to ask them to make concessions through a process from which they are excludedPeter Kyle

Mr Kyle said the Labor Party would oppose the law if it is introduced in the UK Parliament as set out in the command paper.

“Proceeding under these circumstances would be irresponsible and highly destabilizing for an already fragile political settlement within Northern Ireland,” he said.

“I request that you now officially stop the process and withdraw your commitment to make laws based on those proposals.

“A new process must begin. Victims need to be heard and it is unfair to ask them to make concessions through a process from which they are excluded.

“Politicians representing constituencies in Northern Ireland in both the Assembly and the House of Commons must play an essential role in overcoming the difficulties that have previously prevented progress.”