An influential terror victims’ group says 90% of those who attended their public meetings on government proposals to deal with the past firmly rejected the plans.
That was one conclusion in the submission to the government proposals from the Fermanagh-based South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), which represents over 1,000 families.
Sharp criticism of the proposals – part of a government consultation which closes this Friday – has also been expressed by the UUP, the Presbyterian Church and the Orange Order, while the DUP has been more supportive.
SEFF’s advocacy services manager Ken Funston said: “The draft bill before us is principally directed against retired members of the security forces and will not meaningfully investigate the role of the terrorist gangs who were responsible for over 3,000 murders.”
SEFF’s director of services Kenny Donaldson said that over the summer SEFF organised a series of events across NI, the Republic and GB, which were attended by over 1,000 people, the majority victims and survivors.
“It was clear by the emotions displayed by the attendees both vocally and in feedback sheets, that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the proposals in their present format,” he said. “...Over 90% indicated that they wished to see the proposals changed or abandoned.”
The 17 questions in the government document had “deceptive” wording, he added.
“It is difficult to understand how reconciliation will be promoted [by the proposals] when it is clear that the proposed structures by design will exonerate those responsible for 30 years of death and destruction, whilst the law-abiding people will be ignored. Additionally, those whose role was to keep us safe, the security forces, are now being condemned by ideologists, and this legislation will assist them in that pathway.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Karen Bradley ruled out any possibility of a statute of limitations to protect ex-soldiers from prosecution. “I fully understand the concerns that have been raised, but a statute of limitations would not be possible under international law without extending it to terrorists,” she said in a media statement.
A statute of limitations has been broadly supported by Tories and the DUP but has been opposed by many NI-based veterans and the UUP.
SEFF said the statutory definition of a victim, which currently includes perpetrators of violence, must be changed, something echoed recently by DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in this paper.
SEFF says the proposed plans offer no investigations of murders in – or executed from – the Republic of Ireland, and unlike the UK, Irish state files will not be opened.
On the run comfort letters, and Royal Peregotaives of Mercy already amount to amnesties and “undermine the rule of law” it said.
Proposed legacy bodies would also “accuse and identify” retired police officers on non-criminal grounds.
The consultation closes this Friday. See the proposals at: www.gov.uk/NIO