Posted By: April 20, 2020



Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus
“British government reneging on its legacy-promises has evoked a strong rebuke from the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland. In reference to  the government’s plan to, in effect, grant pardon for past murders by British soldiers, the Bishops state: “justice would be pursued, where possible, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator.”
—Fr. Sean McManus

Bishops in letter to Lewis over legacy cases

Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, April 9, 2020

Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland have written to the Secretary of State expressing concern at plans for dealing with the legacy of the past, insisting “justice should be pursued”.

In a letter signed by Bishops Eamon Martin,  Noel Treanor, Donal McKeown, Larry Duffy and Michael Router, they express “deep concern” at a statement by Brandon Lewis last month that laid out the British government’s approach.

He set out proposals for an “independent body focused on providing information to families and swift examinations of all unresolved deaths from the Troubles”.

However, he also said there would be an “end to the cycle of reinvestigations that has failed victims and veterans for too long”, ensuring that ex-soldiers in Northern Ireland “receive equal treatment to their counterparts who served overseas”.

Mr. Lewis said this “new approach seeks to put victims first with information recovery and reconciliation as the overarching goal”.

In response, the bishops said it was deeply concerning that the UK government had departed from the Stormont House Agreement and the fundamental principle that “justice would be pursued, where possible, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator”.

They also cautioned against destabilizing the executive and other institutions at a time when a unified government is needed more than ever.

“Reconciliation can only come about if the nature of the violence perpetrated is acknowledged, and conditions for its recurrence are removed,” they said.

“Real reconciliation means that we cannot forget the past. We must face the past, no matter how costly or painful that encounter may be, before real reconciliation can flourish.

“Victims and survivors have paid the highest price for the fragile peace we all enjoy today. For too long their voices have been marginalized in our society, and their needs neglected.”

They said they looked forward to discussing the issues in person, adding: “Justice should be pursued, for a just society is a society of peace.

“For those victims who do not feel justly treated, the wounds of the past will never fully heal. We therefore support the ongoing pursuit of appropriate criminal, legal and civic justice for all victims.

“While we do not wish to outline all of our detailed concerns on this issue at present, we wish to express our alarm and disappointment at the new position which the UK government is taking… and specifically its departure from the understanding inherent in the Stormont House Agreement to which all parties signed up to with goodwill.

“The timing of the announcement was unfortunate, coming at a time when our citizens, and people across the world, are dealing with the serious impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“The implications of the proposals are therefore not receiving the widespread scrutiny they might otherwise receive.”