Legacy plan deeply flawed

Posted By: October 27, 2022

Irish Congressional Briefing

Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus

“From the very beginning, along with Belfast Protestant Raymond McCord— the preeminent anti-amnesty campaigner on the island of Ireland—the Irish National Caucus has been telling the U.S. Congress this: the amnesty plan is not for the good of the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland. The amnesty is ALL about England’s interests. As the attached Irish News editorial explains, it ‘is driven primarily by a desire to protect former soldiers.’”—Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Legacy plan deeply flawed

Editorial. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, Thursday, October 27, 2022

IT is difficult to think of another major piece of legislation that has been so universally condemned as the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

The British government is effectively hoping to draw a line under the past by putting an end to conflict-related prosecutions as well as inquests, civil actions, and other formal investigations.

The most controversial element is a proposed amnesty for those who cooperate with a new information recovery unit, closing down the possibility of justice for more than 1,000 unsolved killings.

Victims’ groups and political parties across the board have spoken out against the plans, as has the Irish government.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner has also questioned whether the bill would comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a warning that has now been echoed by a Westminster committee.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has a cross-party membership drawn from both the House of Commons and House of Lords and includes several Conservative MPs.

In a report scrutinizing the legislation, members said they have serious doubts that it is compatible with articles of the ECHR, including obligations to undertake effective investigations into deaths and serious harm

Shutting down avenues to pursue truth and justice was also described as a “high-risk strategy and places the UK at risk of non-compliance with Article 6 (right of access to a court) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy)”.

It stated clearly that criminal investigations, prosecutions, and inquests should be allowed to continue, and a longer limitation period apply to civil claims.

Dealing with the legacy of the past is undoubtedly a complex and difficult task and it is generally acknowledged that the current patchwork of criminal and civil remedies is not working for many families.

However, it is equally clear that the Conservative government is being disingenuous in its approach and its unbalanced, unilateral approach is driven primarily by a desire to protect former soldiers.

As well as conflicting with international obligations, the bill is a betrayal of plans for new legacy mechanisms that were painstakingly agreed by the main Northern Ireland parties at the Stormont House negotiations eight years ago.