The UK government is expected to formally confirm a plan on Wednesday to introduce an autumn statute of limitations for all murders during the unrest until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998.
On Wednesday, Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will present the proposal to address legacy issues related to the unrest in the House of Commons. This is expected to include the UK government’s intention to introduce a statute of limitations, starting in the fall of 2021.
The proposed statute of limitations would include murders committed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Ulster Defense Association and the Ulster Volunteer Forces, as well as other Republican and loyalist paramilitary groups. It would also end criminal investigations into all murders committed by British soldiers, police and military intelligence. An estimated 3,250 people were killed during the unrest (1968 – 1998).
Opposition to amnesty
“Critics have said that such a decision would represent an amnesty,” reports RTE. The Irish government, the Stormont Executive of Northern Ireland and victim groups oppose the plan.
In May 2021, a number of UK newspapers reported a ban on prosecuting military veterans. This happened just days before the ten victims of the 1971 Ballymurphy were cleared and killed by the British Parachute Regiment.
Irish Taoiseach (Chief) Micheál Martin said the move would be “a breach of trust” and “a betrayal of the victims”.
Tánaister (Deputy Head) Leo Varadkar said the Irish government was “very alarmed and deeply disturbed” by the reports from the British newspaper.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney also said the government would oppose the move.
Barely three weeks ago, Ireland and the British government announced, following the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, plans for talks between the political parties of Northern Ireland and the victims of the unrest. The aim of these planned talks was to find “an agreed way forward” to deal with inheritance issues.
Since then, there has only been one meeting. A second meeting was scheduled to take place on Wednesday July 14, but was canceled.
Several high-profile political sources in Northern Ireland have told RTE they believe the UK government has made its decision. Said Great Britain “tells us, don’t ask what is the best way forward”.
Another said: “They might hear the words spoken, but I don’t think they are listening to a single word.
“They have made it very clear over the past few weeks which direction of travel is preferred and they seem determined to follow it.”
General Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army, called the plans “the least worst solution”. Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said: “This is not the solution to everyone’s problems, I call it the least worst solution.
“But it does provide a mechanism whereby investigations can continue, interrogations can continue so that families who have lost loved ones during the unrest will know what happened, but without fear of legal action being taken. above the heads of military veterans. “
A UK government source told the Daily Mail “A government source said:” We want to give Northern Irish society the best chance to move forward as one – in order to do that we have to face reality difficult and painful that the realistic prospect of prosecution is fading away. small and as long as this prospect remains Northern Ireland will continue to be crippled by its past.
“Our legacy package will help Northern Ireland overcome an adversarial cycle that neither provides information or reconciliation to victims and survivors, nor ends the cycle of investigations against our veterans.”
Conservative Member of Parliament Julian Lewis, former Chairman of the Commons Defense Committee, said: “There is no way you can find a solution that makes everyone happy.
He added that the IRA “effectively already had a prison-free release card” following concessions granted by Tony Blair, as part of the Good Friday deal.
Former Tory President Norman Tebbit said: “It won’t make much difference to terrorists – Tony Blair gave the IRA a pass years ago. But stopping the persecution of our soldiers would be a good thing – it was completely unfair.