Northern Ireland legacy bill opposed by DUP and TUV as Amnesty deputy director voices outrage at 'betraying victims' in the cruellest way possible

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MPs have been urged again to reject a controversial bill to deal with the legacy of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation Bill) is set to return to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Peers recently removed a contentious element of the proposed legislation which would have offered immunity from prosecution to those who committed crimes during the Troubles if they co-operated with a truth-recovery body, but MPs will have the opportunity to restore that provision.

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The legislation would also stop new inquests and civil cases taking place.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation Bill) is set to return to the House of Commons this weekThe Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation Bill) is set to return to the House of Commons this week
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation Bill) is set to return to the House of Commons this week

The Government has said the legislation is the best way to deliver for victims of the Troubles, however, the DUP and TUV believe that victims deserve justice.

"To all the innocent victims of terrorism, we pay tribute to their tenacity and fortitude in the face of those who want to close their access to justice," said DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP.

"This is a basic right in most democracies but for victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland, they face the real prospect of that right being denied to them.

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"This also impacts on wider society and as I have said from the outset, I cannot see how the path to reconciliation is made easier by the denial of justice.

"In relation to the Bill being brought back, there is almost universal opposition to it. Some had hoped that this would be one area where the Government might listen to all the parties in Northern Ireland, but that does not appear to be the case.

"On June 19, I wrote to the Prime Minister alongside others, and spoke to the views of victims and asked for the proposals to be withdrawn.

"The letter restated our fundamental opposition to an amnesty which is what the Bill in effect creates.

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"We also paid tribute to the victims and recognised that while we tabled amendments, that should not be misconstrued in any shape or form as providing tacit consent to this regime, which undermines confidence in the rule of law and has done so much harm to victims."

TUV party chairman councillor Keith Ratcliffe echoed those comments and labelled the decision to provide immunity from prosecution for those who co-operate with investigations run by a new information recovery body as "abhorrent".

He said: “This Bill does not command the support of innocent victims of terrorism. It does not address their concerns and merely continues the policy of successive governments since the Belfast Agreement of looking at victims as best as an inconvenience and at worst an embarrassment to a process which elevated victim makers to the heart of government in Northern Ireland.

“Throughout the process of framing this legislation the views of those impacted by terrorists have been ignored and frankly we are closer to an amnesty today than we ever were.

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“Bad as the Belfast Agreement was, at least terrorists were released as convicts on licence. Now, a quarter of a century later, legislation is being put in place which will aid them in the rewriting of history. As someone who represents an area of Northern Ireland which was most deeply impacted by terrorism, I find that abhorrent.”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK's Northern Ireland deputy director, said the Government was ignoring the pleas of victims.

She said: "It is disgraceful that a Bill universally opposed, and which betrays victims in the most cruel and contemptuous way possible, continues to be pushed through by the UK Government.

"The call to abandon this shameful Bill has never been more urgent.

"Now is the time for MPs to decide whether they will prop up Government's plan to protect murderers or stand with victims and for their rights to truth and justice."