Reports of new terror amnesty arrangements ‘highly irresponsible’: NIO

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the bombing leaves court.Picture: Matt Mackey/
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the bombing leaves court.Picture: Matt Mackey/
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The Northern Ireland Office and Department of Justice have both firmly rejected reports that plans are afoot for a new amnesty for atrocities committed during the Troubles.

According to various media reports yesterday, there are plans to push into legislation a process whereby anyone could make a full confession to government, yet be assured that their victims would never know anything about it.

It is alleged that the process is part of the Implementation Reconciliation Group under the Stormont House Agreement, and is to be forced into legislation without public consultation.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the 1998 Omagh bombing, said he had not heard of the proposal, but found it plausible that it was genuine.

“The Department of Justice (DoJ) has been holding workshops for certain victims relating to the Historical Investigation Unit (HIU) aspect of the Stormont House Agreement,” he said.

He added that his group are victims of the biggest atrocity of Troubles, but the DoJ has never invited them to a workshop.

The DoJ responded that the workshops “were not meant to be public meetings”.

“We contacted an extensive list of stakeholders and asked them to pass information about the three workshops to any other group who they thought would be interested,” a spokesman said.

“DoJ officials are happy to meet any groups who would like to discuss the establishment of the HIU.”

He said Implementation Reconciliation Group – under which the alleged amnesty was being reportedly proposed – was the responsibility of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister.

Victims campaigner Willie Frazer said that during the Haass talks in 2013, he was approached by the NIO with the same amnesty proposal.

“We rejected it totally,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the NIO branded yesterday’s media claims about the amnesty “grossly misleading and highly irresponsible reporting”.

She added: “This Government does not believe in amnesties and there will be no amnesty.”

A DUP spokesman said: “There will be no amnesties for anyone who attends the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval [a body which was to be set up under the Stormont House Agreement on both sides of the border].

“No amnesty is proposed or agreed in the Stormont House Agreement and there are no intentions to introduce one.”