UUP under fire in Haass talks ‘amnesty’ row

Jeffrey Dudgeon was part of the UUP's Haass talks team
Jeffrey Dudgeon was part of the UUP's Haass talks team

The UUP has come under fire after a senior party figure appeared to say they had pushed for an end to Troubles-related prosecutions during the Haass talks on the past.

Belfast councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon and his party both distanced themselves from his remarks on Friday night, saying he had been giving personal opinions – however, he drew fire from terror victims and the DUP and TUV.

When it was put to him by BBC Talkback this week that the Attorney General had advocated an end to prosecutions, inquests, and inquiries Mr Dudgeon said that in order to move forward “drawing a line [under the past] is the ultimate in requirement”.

Asked if he meant no more prosecutions he replied “it would have to be”, and when pressed on an end to inquiries, he appeared to suggest that this had been his party’s position in the Haass talks in 2013.

“An end to inquiries,” he said, “well that’s what (unclear) legacy operation that came out of Haass (sic), I was part of the Haass talks, we tried to push, to angle the whole matter toward historical review and understanding, that’s the big issue to find out, what people did, why they did it and what they did wrong.”

In response, DUP South Belfast MLA Emma Pengelly called upon the UUP to “clarify their stance on an amnesty for terrorist crimes”.

But a UUP spokesman hit back: “Mrs Pengelly is being mischievous. Jeff Dudgeon was expressing his personal views which are not UUP policy, which remains as it was.

“We will not deny victims the opportunity to get justice for their loved ones no matter how many years have passed. There can be no amnesty.”

Mr Dudgeon added: “The views I expressed on Talkback, born of long experience and much consideration, are entirely my own and not those of the UUP, in relation, in particular, to staying prosecutions or a form of amnesty.”

Unionists should oppose rewriting the past, moral equivalence between police and IRA – and must prioritise national security.

But TUV leader Jim Allister said the DUP had approved the same principles in the Stormont House Agreement as Mr Dudgeon had done on Talkback – “equating innocent victims with victim-makers” and allowing terrorists anonymous confessions with immunity.

Anne Travers, whose sister was murdered by the IRA, said of Mr Dudgeon’s comments: “Just who do innocent victims trust? Are we to be swept aside while those who were involved in making victims will be treated as heroes?”

Innocent Victims United’s Kenny Donaldson said: “We reject any further move towards overt or covert amnesty for pre-1998 terror crimes. It may suit politicians, but victims will not accept it.”