Peter Hain slams Government’s ‘morally corrupt’ Troubles amnesty plan

Former Secretary of State for Peter Hain has described the Government’s legacy proposals as set out in a Command Paper last July as “legally dubious, constitutionally dangerous and morally corrupt”.

By Philip Bradfield
Monday, 29th November 2021, 9:10 pm
Updated Monday, 29th November 2021, 9:20 pm
Former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain.
Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain. Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Lord Hain raised the issue of the proposed amnesty for all Troubles related crimes in the House of Lords during a debate on the Northern Ireland Minister, Elections and Petition of Concern Bill today, Monday 29 November.

Lord Hain told the House of Lords that the Command paper was one of the most shocking documents he had come across in 50 years in politics and government.

He said: “It proposes what is in effect a blanket amnesty which would include those who carried out some of the most unspeakable atrocities imaginable during what is still euphemistically called the Troubles.

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“It would say to traumatised and still grieving victims: ‘What happened to your loved one is no longer of any interest to the state’ and it says to perpetrators: ‘What you did to those victims is no longer of any interest to the state’.

“And this from a Government which purports to uphold the rule of law”.

Lord Hain went on to refer to the IRA murder of Patsy Gillespie in October 1990.

Patsy Gillespie, who worked as a civilian cook in an army base, was chained to the steering column of his van which had a 1200lb bomb placed in it.

While his wife and young family were held at gunpoint he was made to drive the van to an army post.

He shouted a warning but while still in the driver’s seat the bomb was detonated killing Patsy and five soldiers.

Lord Hain continued: “If this legislation as currently proposed is enacted who do you think will sleep easier in their beds: Patsy’s wife Kathleen or the people who turned her husband into a human bomb?

“Could any of us look Kathleen in the eye and say: ‘I voted for a law that will offer succour and protection to the men who robbed you and your children of the love of your life’?

“I could not and I urge the Government to think again before its Bill is presented to Parliament”.

Lord Hain revealed that his own thinking on dealing with legacy had evolved since he became familiar with the work of the Operation Kenova Team lead by former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher.

He said: “In essence Kenova prioritises an information recovery process rather than a prosecutorial process but leaves open prosecutions if the evidence uncovered sustains those.

Victims and survivors will only be properly served through a criminal justice process that is European Court of Human Rights Article Two compliant”.

Lord Hain concluded: “I urge the Secretary of State to change his proposals and follow a Kenova-type model or I predict his amnesty for some of the most terrible crimes will face certain defeat in the House of Lords”.