Amendments will bolster legacy bill

Posted By: May 28, 2023

Fr. McManus, Raymond McCord, and Rep. Richie Neal


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus.

“Belfast Protestant Raymond McCord continues to spearhead the campaign against the British legacy bill in this BBC report.  Although the bill would give immunity to others besides British soldiers and their political bosses, everybody on the island of Ireland knows full well it is all about British soldiers and their enablers—not about Protestant or Catholic victims in Northern Ireland.”

—Fr. Sean McManus

Amendments will bolster legacy bill – Lord Caine

Lord Caine said he acknowledged that the new bill involved “difficult and finely balanced political judgments.”

By Chris Page. BBC News. Ireland Correspondent. Sunday, May 28, 2023

A government minister has said planned changes to a bill on investigations relating to the Northern Ireland Troubles would ensure the new system was more “robustly compliant” with international law.


Lord Caine told the BBC he hoped the amendments would make the legislation more acceptable to victims.

The bill offers a conditional amnesty to those accused of Troubles-related crimes.

The plans have been widely criticized.

Most Northern Ireland victims’ groups strongly oppose plans to grant a conditional amnesty to former members of paramilitary groups and state forces if they cooperate with an information-gathering process.

Northern Ireland political parties, the Irish government, and human rights organizations, including Amnesty and the Council of Europe, have also criticized the legislation as it stands.

About 3,500 people died in three decades of violence known as the Troubles.

The legislation being brought forward by the Westminster government will bring an end to inquests and civil court cases linked to the conflict.

Instead, there will be a new agency – the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) – which will carry out reviews of crimes from the Troubles as requested by bereaved families, the Northern Ireland secretary and senior law officers.

In a BBC interview, Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Caine said he was continuing to work on amendments to the bill, which he will bring forward during its next stage in the House of Lords in June.

“I want to make sure the bill is very clear that reviews can include criminal investigations to a standard that meets our international obligations,” he said.

“I’m also looking at measures to bolster and boost the independence of the commission, after a number of criticisms that it gives the Northern Ireland secretary too many powers.”

“Personally challenging”

The Conservative peer said he was also planning to strengthen the penalties for people who do not cooperate with the ICRIR and to give the commission powers to revoke a suspect’s immunity from prosecution if they are found to have misled investigators.

Lord Caine acknowledged that the legislation involved “difficult and finely-balanced political judgments,” and said his friendship with the Tory MP Ian Gow – who was murdered by the IRA in 1990 – meant he found the proposals “personally challenging.”

But he asked for his amendments to be given “a fair wind” when they were unveiled.

Many victims have been campaigning against the bill, with a focus on the conditional amnesty.

Jennifer Jordan lost six members of her family during the Troubles – including her father, Clifford Lundy.

All of the men were in the security forces.

She said the bill had “nothing for innocent victims whatsoever”.

“It puts the perpetrator on a parallel with the innocent victim – which is wrong,” she said.

“It’s another version of a get-out-of-jail card.

“If you commit murder and then you go and tell a story, you get a reward for it – you get to go free.

“It doesn’t make sense in a civilized society.”

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond was murdered by the loyalist paramilitary group the UVF, said the bill should be scrapped rather than amended.

“There can be no amnesty for murderers,” he said.

“There should be prosecutions, inquests, and civil cases.

“The government is taking away everything we should expect in a normal country.”

Ministers are hoping to pass the legislation before the summer recess.

Lord Caine argued the legislation was designed to give people the best opportunity to get the facts about their relatives’ deaths.

“At this distance from many of the events of the conflict, the likelihood of prosecutions is very slim,” he said.

“I think getting as much information as possible to those who want it in a timely manner is probably the best thing we can hope to achieve.”

Chief commissioner criticism

He stressed that the ICRIR would have police powers and would be able to conduct “criminal-standard” investigations.

“It will be for the Commission to decide how to proceed in consultation with families,” Lord Caine added.

He responded to criticism that the appointment of the former Northern Ireland Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan to the position of ICRIR chief commissioner had been premature given the legislation was not yet complete.

“It’s not wholly unusual for people to be appointed to bodies prior to the body itself being established,” Lord Caine said.

He added that the aim was for a “seamless transition” from the old system to the new process when the bill was passed.

He said the legislation was designed to give as many people as possible the opportunity to get the facts about deaths – given that successful prosecutions are now unlikely.

What is the legacy bill?

*Legislation that aims to draw a line under the Northern Ireland Troubles by dealing with so-called legacy issues

*The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill runs to almost 100 pages

*It was introduced in May 2022 in an attempt to deal with more than 1,000 unsolved killings

*A central element involves immunity from prosecution for those who cooperate with investigations run by a new information recovery body

*Victims’ groups, the Irish government, and political parties at Stormont are opposed to the bill, arguing it will remove access to justice for victims and their families

*Veterans Commissioner Danny Kinahan gave the bill a cautious welcome and it is also supported by the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement .

*The bill had its second reading in the Lords on 23 November. The government told peers it would bring forward amendments including “a more robust process” around immunity from prosecution

*Lord Caine said the ICRIR would be able to conduct criminal investigations and to expect more amendments to the bill.