DUP seeks to insert ‘glorification of terror’ clause into the Tory government’s Northern Ireland Troubles amnesty bill due up for debate on Monday

The DUP is seeking to alter the government’s planned Troubles amnesty bill so that people who benefit from the immunity it creates can be given stiff-than-usual jail terms if they go on to “glorify terrorism”.

By Adam Kula
Friday, 1st July 2022, 5:02 pm
Updated Friday, 1st July 2022, 6:00 pm
May 1994
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Scene of IRA mortar attack in Londonderry which killed one RUC man and injured several others
May 1994 - Scene of IRA mortar attack in Londonderry which killed one RUC man and injured several others

This is just one of a number of amendments which are set to be debated in the House of Commons on Monday, as MPs resume their mammoth sitting which was adjourned on Wednesday night.

The amnesty bill is deeply unpopular with both victims’ groups and political parties, with almost no supporters outside the Tory fold.

But given the weight of Tory numbers in the Commons, it looks highly likely to pass.

In short, a DUP amendment lodged with the Commons would mean that if someone is convicted of “glorifiying terrorism” in the future, and that person had already been granted immunity as part of the amnesty, then this immunity would be an “aggravating factor” when it came to their sentencing.

However, the existing law on the glorification of terrorism is hardly ever deployed in Northern Ireland, with countless murals, marching banners and flags – to say nothing of online posts – openly displaying the slogans and crests of paramilitary groups and their dead leaders.

In addition, at present the DUP is seeking to ensure that the official definition of “victim” in the bill excludes paramilitaries who were injured in the court of illegal acts.

The present law allows someone who “glorifies terrorism” to be jailed for a maximum of 15 years.

The offence itself was created by the 2006 Terrorism Act.

Specifically, part one reads as follows:

“Statements that are likely to be understood by a reasonable person as indirectly encouraging the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or convention offences include every statement which:

“(A) Glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences; and

“(B)is a statement from which members of the public could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated by them in existing circumstances.”

Gavin Robinson, barrister and East Belfast DUP MLA, said of the amendments today: “If the Secretary of State is intent on keeping up the pretence that this is about promoting reconciliation, he should have no problem acknowledging that our amendments are victim-centred and a reasonable counterweight to the unjust protection granted by this bill to the perpetrators of crime.’’

The DUP’s Carla Lockhart last week acknowledged that mathematics is not on the side of the bill’s opponents, with some 359 Conservative MPs in the Commons compared with 291 MPs from other parties (200 Labour, 45 SNP, 14 LibDem, eight DUP, seven SF, and 17 others).

She said whilst “this bill is likely to be made law – it will never be good law, it will always be fundamentally flawed”.