MLAs return to Stormont to oppose Troubles amnesty plan

The Assembly has been recalled from its summer recess as anger grows over proposals revealed last week to deal with legacy in Northern Ireland
MLAs return to Stormont to oppose Troubles amnesty plan

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

The North’s politicians will return to Stormont later to send a message to the UK Government that they will not accept plans to end prosecutions for Troubles crimes.

The Assembly has been recalled from its summer recess as anger grows over proposals revealed last week by Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis to deal with legacy issues in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, victims of terrorism are also expected to travel to Downing Street to hand over a letter indicating their opposition to what has been described as a “de facto amnesty”.

Mr Lewis announced last week that he intends to introduce legislation to create a proposed statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime minister Boris Johnson said his Government’s legacy plan would allow Northern Ireland to ‘draw a line under the Troubles’. Photo: Ian West/PA

The proposals, which British prime minister Boris Johnson said would allow the North to “draw a line under the Troubles”, would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

But the proposals have been heavily criticised by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland as well as the Irish Government, and a range of victims’ and survivors’ groups.

As part of the row, the SDLP tabled a petition calling for the recall of the Assembly and received the required 30 signatures from MLAs.

The Assembly will debate a motion which states that “victims and survivors should have a full, material and central role and input into the content and design of structures to address the legacy of the past”.

The motion also calls on MLAs to “reject the proposals” for a statute of limitations in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions and calls on the Westminster Government to withdraw the plans.

Ulster politics
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said MLAs had a chance to ‘come together’ in opposition to a proposal to end Troubles prosecutions. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon, who tabled the recall petition, said it was an opportunity for political leaders to “come together and unequivocally oppose the British government’s proposal for an amnesty for those involved in troubles-related crimes”.

She added: “Political leaders have an opportunity to send a clear message to Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis when the Assembly is recalled. There cannot be any type of amnesty and every party needs to express that.

“The proposed amnesty announced last week was a crushing blow for victims, many who have spent years campaigning to find out the exact circumstances behind the deaths of their loved ones.

“The arrogant announcement from the British Government which Boris Johnson said would ‘draw a line under the Troubles’, has in fact done the exact opposite. These plans have retraumatised victims and forced them to go through the pain of losing their loved one all over again.

 

“The British government cannot be allowed to decide who deserves justice and on what terms. They cannot be allowed to extinguish victims’ hopes.”

A number of victims’ families are expected to go to Downing Street in London on Tuesday to signal their opposition to the statute of limitation plans.

They are expected to include Raymond McCord, a veteran victims campaigner whose 22-year-old son, Raymond junior, was murdered by the UVF in Belfast in 1997, Billy McManus, whose father William was one of five people killed in February 1992 when the UFF opened fire on the Sean Graham bookmakers shop on the lower Ormeau Road in Belfast, Joe Campbell jnr, whose father Joseph, a Catholic police officer, was shot dead outside Cushendall RUC station in 1977, and families of victims of the IRA Birmingham pub bombings in 1974, in which 21 were killed.

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