‘Nothing for innocent victims’ in government’s amnesty plans

Terror victims have roundly condemned new government proposals that would end prosecutions involving either terrorist perpetrators or soldiers linked to fatal Troubles shootings.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 6:45 am
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 9:40 am

The Innocent Victims United (IVU) group said details of the plan – which have been leaked to some national newspapers – show there is “nothing on the table” for victims and survivors.

The bar on historic prosecutions would apply across the board, and include former security force members and paramilitaries. However, an exemption would still enable prosecutions for war crimes including torture.

The reports suggest that an outline of the government’s plan will be announced in next week’s Queen’s Speech.

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Enniskillen Poppy Day massacre. The IRA blew up a building at Remembrance Day service in 1987 which killed 11 people who were standing in and around the area. . Pacemaker Press

Such a move would signal the scrapping of a key mechanism agreed by the UK and Irish governments, and most of the main Northern Ireland parties, at the 2014 Stormont House talks.

IVU spokesman Kenny Donaldson said: “There’s nothing on the table for innocent victims/survivors of terrorism currently, and if this legacy process is truly about them then their demands need delivered on.

“We’ve had a quarter of a century of appeasement of terrorism and its political annexes, now the government needs to appease innocent victims/survivors of terrorism.”

Mr Donaldson added: “Where a member of the security forces has faced due process and has been deemed to have no further case to answer then there should be no further persecution.

“Credible and new evidence must be provided otherwise they should not be pursued.”

News of the proposals has also be widely condemned right across the political spectrum, including DUP MP Gavin Robinson who said: “Anyone who committed a crime should be held accountable for that if evidence can be put before a court and a conviction secured.”

Meanwhile, PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne said he has had no advanced sight of what the UK government is planning in relation to legacy cases.

Mr Byrne declined to be drawn on whether or not he would support the reported statute of limitations, insisting it was appropriate to wait to comment until the details were officially announced.

However, he made clear that the PSNI had “consistently” voiced its support for the Stormont House Agreement mechanisms, which include a new investigative unit for Troubles crimes.

“I haven’t had a conversation with the secretary of state [Brandon Lewis] in relation to what would appear in the public domain today,” he told a meeting of the Policing Board.

“We did have an indication from the NIO that something will be said on the 11th of May (Queen’s Speech) but we were no (more) sighted in terms of the detail than what has been put out in the public domain today.”

He added: “We’ve said on previous occasions that we support the Stormont House Agreement.

“We’ve said that consistently over a number of years.

“But I just don’t want to get drawn at the moment until we’ve seen the specifics in the Queen’s Speech, because we might end up upsetting a whole can of worms that we don’t need to because we haven’t got any further insight at the moment.”