The UK government’s legacy bill has fundamental flaws

A letter from the Truth Recovery Process Committee:

By Letters
Monday, 27th June 2022, 11:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 12:54 am
Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

On behalf of the Truth Recovery Process, we wish to draw your readers’ attention to fundamental flaws in the British government’s Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, which began its second reading in the House of Commons yesterday.

1) There is nothing about “reconciliation” in the bill and it would be more honest of the British government to delete the word from the title. The “legacy” element will certainly live on, unresolved.

2) A positive element in the bill is the provision that allows victims to initiate investigations through the commission.

3) Another positive is the consensus across the political spectrum that people guilty of serious sexual offences such as rape should not be able to avail of any immunity scheme under cover of Troubles related activities. This is an endorsement of the stand taken primarily by victims, such as Máiría Cahill, against the perpetrators of these acts, who have come from organisations across the political spectrum.

4) Unfortunately, like all its predecessors, this bill is based on an adversarial legal model overseen by a senior judge and staffed by lawyers. Experience has shown that such an approach is not only slow, expensive and an effective denial of either truth or justice to the vast majority of Troubles victims but does nothing to promote reconciliation or heal divisions in society.

5) The bill is so contentious that the Alliance and SDLP parties are proposing the deletion of all of its substantive clauses and their associated schedules.

6) The amendment tabled by the chair of the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Conservative MP Simon Hoare, that “at least one commissioner should have significant international experience or expertise”, is an implicit acknowledgement that this measure is being taken unilaterally by the British government in contravention of the Belfast Agreement, Stormont House and international commitments.

7) British Labour Party amendments to improved access to information and the adoption of “Kenova” standard investigative procedures while laudable, are of little use when the bill itself is so problematic.

8) Our Truth Recovery Process is offered as an alternative to the courts if victims and survivors wish to avail of it. However, no one should be denied their right to pursue cases through the legal system. – Yours, etc,

Harry Donaghy (Joint Chair), John Green (Joint Chair), Mike Jennings, Liz McManus, David Picking, Andy Pollak, Padraig Yeates (Secretary), Truth Recovery Process Committee