Ulster Unionist deputy leader: Any amnesty in Northern Ireland will overwhelmingly benefit former terrorists

At yesterday’s round table meeting to discuss legacy issues, the Ulster Unionist Party restated its long-held opposition to a general amnesty on the grounds that it would deny the hope of justice to the families of Troubles victims.

By Robbie Butler
Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 12:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 12:12 pm
Robbie Butler is an Ulster Unionist Party MLA for Lagan Valley and the party’s deputy leader
Robbie Butler is an Ulster Unionist Party MLA for Lagan Valley and the party’s deputy leader

We also reiterated our opposition to the Stormont House Agreement legacy proposals because they amount to an effective amnesty for all cases up to but not including murder.

Dublin has a major role to play in any legacy process given the cross-border aspect of the Troubles and we pressed Simon Coveney on comments by the former Justice Minister Michael McDowell that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness had demanded and received ‘a de facto moratorium on investigation and prosecution of IRA members’ and that ‘so far as this state (the Republic) was concerned, a line was drawn across the page of historic Provisional IRA criminality in Northern Ireland’.

The Ulster Unionist Party has consistently highlighted the need to remember the context of the Troubles and that 90% of deaths were due to terrorist actions, 60% republican, 30% loyalists.

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Any amnesty will overwhelmingly benefit former terrorists.

Given the reaction at the time from the then Sinn Fein MLA Ian Milne, that it was ‘wrong, vindictive and counterproductive’ to prosecute the IRA murderer of RUC officer John Proctor — killed in 1981 — and the view from Gerry Adams that jailing the IRA killers of Louth farmer Tom Oliver — murdered in 1991 — would be ‘totally and absolutely counterproductive’ it is very hard to take Sinn Fein seriously when it comes to truth and justice for victims and their families.

When the IRA was responsible — and that was in almost 60% of cases — the message seems to be to let it go, but it is a different story when it comes to putting former soldiers or police officers in the dock.

That is totally unacceptable.

What we need is a legacy process that is balanced, fair, equitable and crucially proportionate.

Sadly for the victims and their families, we are still a long way off that.

Robbie Butler is an Ulster Unionist Party MLA for Lagan Valley and the party’s deputy leader

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