VICTIMS of terrorism last night said they are more angry at the possibility of an amnesty for terrorists than they were when prisoners got out of jail under the Good Friday Agreement.
Police officers, relatives of terror victims and politicians expressed their consternation at the Eames-Bradley group's admission it was considering an amnesty for terrorists and warned that it would give encouragement to dissident republican terrorists.
Last night, a man whose father was kidnapped and tortured by republican terrorists said he was outraged at the possibility of an amnesty for murderers should be considered by a leading church figure.
Jim Elliott called on Lord Eames to reject any proposal to let his father's killers escape justice because it would "go against the Biblical message".
The Rathfriland man said the Consultative Group on the Past's (CGP) announcement that it was considering recommending an amnesty for terrorists had brought back traumatic memories from when his father was butchered in 1972.
"Eames is a clergyman – I didn't think he would have stood for this because it's not in the teaching of the Bible," he said.
"He should rule this out because my father never got any chance of an amnesty – how can terrorists be entitled to it now?"
A spokesman for the CGP said none of the group were available for interview.
Police officers expressed their anger and said it would give succour to dissident republicans targeting them that at some point in the future they could escape justice.
Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation, said the thousands of rank-and-file officers he represents would be enraged by any amnesty for murderers.
"What sort of a message would this send out to the other criminals who wouldn't get an amnesty? It would be a very dangerous precedent to let off the loyalist and republican terrorists who killed police officers and a gratuitous insult to the officers who risked everything to try and keep law and order," he said.
Wilma Carson, from the RUC Widows' Association, said: "How can the murder of police officers attending their place of worship, going about their business or working be described as war? This would legitimise the murder of our loved ones."
Victims' campaigner Willie Frazer said he had never seen so much anger among terror victims.
"This is like asking someone who's been raped to legitimise their rapist," the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives representative said.
"I have never seen so much anger at a proposal – releasing prisoners under the Good Friday Agreement was bad but nothing like this."
Alan Madill, whose father was severely maimed by republican terrorists, said it was "more than an insult" to people who had suffered agony to be told they would never see justice.
"This is reopening wounds that had never healed. At one point, I thought this group was independent of the NIO, but I now have grave doubts about that," he said.
"Letting out prisoners was bad enough, but to absolve them of all their crimes is beyond the pale."
Raymond McCord, from north Belfast, whose son Raymond jnr was murdered in November 1997 by the UVF, said: "It beggars
belief that they can even contemplate it. I'm totally opposed to it. I would like to know why they
are suggesting to have a different law for killers in Northern
Ireland than they have in the
rest of Great Britain, and the Republic."
Mr McCord said nowhere in the European Union would give
murderers an amnesty.
"The panel that has been set up with Lord Eames and Denis Bradley is not reflective of victims. There is not one victim representative on that panel," he said.
"Denis Bradley's statement last night that there are bigger things at stake than victims is an insult to the families of the 3,700 people who were murdered here.
"The panel is an NIO initiative. It's another case of victims having no voice in Northern Ireland.
"They are legitimising murders and it's as if they are saying 'it's okay and the murders of all those people don't matter'.
"I'd like to think that for once our local politicians will step in and ensure that this doesn't happen."
Raymond Elliott, who won a bravery award for rescuing people from the Shankill bomb, said the group had let down victims.
"To let these people off would be a disgrace and I can't see what right Eames and Bradley have to bring this up," he said.