By Catherine Wylie and Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
The British prime minister and Northern Ireland Secretary must meet families of Troubles victims, according to a campaigner opposed to the UK government’s introduction of controversial legacy legislation.
Raymond McCord, whose son was killed by loyalists, accused Boris Johnson of hypocrisy in his treatment of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.
The UK government said the Bill aims to provide better outcomes for victims, survivors and veterans.
But Mr McCord, of The Truth And Justice Movement, said the only people who benefit from the proposed legacy legislation are the murderers and terrorists.
“The losers all round are the victims and their families,” he told the PA news agency.
Mr McCord is in London for the debating of the legislation.
He said Mr Johnson, Brandon Lewis and many other MPs treat families of Troubles victims as “daft Paddies”.
Mr McCord said: “If they were at school, and they were doing an O-level for Northern Ireland they would all fail. It’s as simple as that.
“And for people who went to university, they’re very uneducated people relating to part of the UK.”
He added: “They treat us as if we’re all daft Paddies. We’re anything but it.”
Mr McCord said he was referring to Mr Johnson and Mr Lewis, as well as “many other MPs”.
He added: “They really need to sit down and listen to victims’ stories, victims telling their stories. Not being told by the police, not being told by an MP for Northern Ireland or an MLA.”
Introduced to the House of Commons last week, the draft laws offer immunity to those deemed to have co-operated with an information retrieval body.
The Bill would also stop future inquests and civil actions related to the Troubles, although it does not fully close the door to criminal prosecutions.
The proposed legislation has been widely criticised by Northern Ireland’s political parties, as well as victims’ campaigners, the Irish Government and Amnesty International.
The Bill is due to go through its second reading on Tuesday, in which the main principles of the Bill are debated by MPs. Three stages are due after that before the Bill can be voted into law.
Mr McCord said Mr Johnson speaks about the Northern Ireland Protocol having to change because there is no consent from both communities.
He suggests this is hypocritical due to the lack of consent over the legacy legislation.
“Well, relating to these proposals there’s consent from no community, from no politician, no victims’ group, no individual victim,” he said.
“What I’m saying is it's hypocrisy in relation to Northern Ireland,” he said, adding: “He’s making the protocol a bigger issue than the deaths of thousands of innocent children, women and men.”
Asked what he would say to Mr Johnson, Mr McCord said: “I’d tell him to resign because he’s not fit to serve his office because of what he’s doing to victims.”
Meanwhile, a delegation from the Relatives For Justice group will gather in Parliament Square in London at 1pm, and walk to 10 Downing Street to deliver a letter setting out opposition to the Bill at 2.30pm.
Co-ordinated opposition to the #BillOfShame
1pm Guildhall Square Derry
1pm Chichester St Belfast
1pm Parliament Sq London#NeverGivingUp
All Welcome - bring photos of your loved ones pic.twitter.com/4jeZWAwh2R
— Relatives 4 Justice (@RelsForJustice) May 23, 2022
Mark Thompson, chief executive of Relatives For Justice, said the Bill “undermines fundamental human rights enshrined within the Good Friday Agreement and the very institutions that flow from the agreement”.
“Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis are usurping the powers of the North’s attorney general, the Lord Chief Justice and judiciary in an unprecedented political overreach by a western government into the criminal justice system,” he said.
“They are locking down the courts and administration of justice.”
Mark Kelly, whose 12-year-old sister Carol Ann was killed by the British army in 1981, said the Bill would “deny all families who had loved ones killed truth, justice and accountability, irrelevant of who the perpetrators were”.
“It will close down investigations, inquests, police ombudsman inquiries and civil cases,” he said.
“These investigative processes are working perfectly well, and to good effect, on behalf of families save for interference by the British government.
“That is precisely why the British government has unilaterally tabled this amnesty Bill despite being fully aware of universal opposition to their amnesty plans. There is no support for this Bill whatsoever.
“The Irish Government, all the political parties here and the opposition parties in Britain oppose this Bill – but most importantly, victims from across the community oppose the Bill.”