Theresa May: An amnesty for all ... or no amnesty at all

Theresa May has told MPs that the nation faces a simple choice – either an amnesty for terrorists and soldiers alike, or no amnesty at all.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 7:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 9:14 am

She was reacting to the Queen’s Speech, setting out the government’s legislative agenda, which mentioned a plan to bring forward some new legislation on Troubles matters, but gave scant detail about what it would involve.

There were rumours last week that it would set up a cut-off point in 1998, with older crimes going uninvestigated.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson today said that, whenever they do emerge, his government’s legacy proposals will be aimed at “ending the cycle of investigations”.

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Mrs May, who is still MP for Maidenhead, said last night: “You cannot legislate simply to protect British soldiers from prosecution.

“Any legislation to protect British soldiers will cover terrorists as well.

“Once you recognise the position, then the options become clearer – either you can continue to investigate and lead to prosecutions for everyone, including veterans. Or you draw some sort of line.

“I think Northern Ireland will only have a bright future when it’s able to move forward and not look over its shoulder at the past.

She added: “Too many lives were shattered, too many people lived in fear.

Too many were left longing for justice.

“The families of those 10 who were considered in the Ballymurphy Inquest have learned what happened to their loved ones, that they were innocent victims.

“Of course we stand up for our armed forces, but as a country we live by certain standards and values and the rule of law.

“And we should not wilfully ignore the breaking of that rule of law, including by members of the armed forces.”

Also commenting on the prospect of an amnesty following the Queen’s Speech was Johnny Mercer, who quit as government minister for veterans in April – largely because the Overseas Operations Bill which the government had passed only applied to soldiers posted outside the British Isles.

They will now be basically immune from prosecution five years after their alleged crimes (with some exceptions like child abuse and genocide).

Mr Mercer said he had been “personally promised” there would be legislation on a number of occasions, and was disappointed that details were not in the Queen’s speech.

“My successor promised it would be in the Queen’s Speech. It is not,” he said.

“At some stage, we must fulfil our promises to our veterans.”

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Alistair Bushe