End of prosecution for crimes committed during unrest in Northern Ireland

End of prosecution for crimes committed during unrest in Northern Ireland

The government has announced that it is effectively ending all prosecutions relating to crimes committed during the unrest in Northern Ireland.

Described as a de facto amnesty for former British soldiers and former paramilitaries, the new statute of limitations will apply to incidents prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

This was confirmed in parliament on Wednesday by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

Many victims say they can’t believe veterans would want an amnesty that also applies to the very terrorists who murdered their comrades

“We know that the prospect of an end to criminal proceedings will be difficult for some to accept and it is not a position we take lightly,” he told MPs.

‘But we have come to the idea that this is the best and only way to facilitate an efficient process of collecting and providing information, and the best way to help Northern Ireland move forward on the path. of reconciliation.

“It’s actually a painful recognition of the very reality of where we are. “

Mr Lewis said it was “clear that the current system for dealing with the legacy of unrest is not working”.

“It is now a difficult, if not painful, truth that the emphasis on criminal investigations is less and less likely to lead to positive criminal justice outcomes, but while continuing to divide communities and not getting answers for the majority of victims and families, ”he added.

Mr Lewis said the government would legislate to set up a new independent body to focus on recovering and providing information on disorder-related deaths and the most serious injuries.

“This organization will focus on helping families find out the truth about what happened to their loved ones. Where families don’t want the past to surface, they could make it clear, ”he said.

Mr Lewis said it was “clear that the current system of managing the legacy of unrest is not working”

“For families who want answers, the body will have full powers to request access to information and find out what happened. “

This decision is met with opposition from the five main political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish government.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would be “rejected by all those in Northern Ireland who stand up for justice and the rule of law”.

It was prompted by a government commitment to end the historic prosecution of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

But many victims say they can’t believe the veterans would want an amnesty that also applies to the very terrorists who murdered their comrades.

Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974, told Sky News she was “glowing with rage.”

“What this proposal will do is, in essence, to give murderers a license to kill,” she said.

“This legislation essentially erases any history of the existence of our loved ones. That’s what it’s about.

“It’s about the government and its predecessors burying their dirty, toxic past and never seeing the light of day.” »

It has been 30 years since Kathleen Gillespie’s husband, Patsy, was murdered in a particularly brutal IRA attack.

They chained him to a van containing a bomb, held his family at gunpoint and ordered him to drive them to a military base.

The 1,200 pound bomb exploded at Coshquin’s base near the border, killing the father of three children and five British soldiers.

Kathleen said, “I feel robbed. I have this thing in my head that when an important person has been killed, their case is investigated and their case is resolved.

“We’re just ordinary people, so it’s good to push ourselves to one side,” she added.

Thirteen civilians were shot dead and a 14th fatally injured when the British Parachute Regiment opened fire in Londonderry in January 1972.

Only one veteran has been charged with murder, but the case against ‘Soldier F’ was stopped last week by prosecutors.

Mickey McKinney, whose brother William was one of the victims, believes that an amnesty only adds to the pain of Bloody Sunday.

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July: The case of the unrest against the ex-soldiers ends

Forty-nine years later, his memories of January 30, 1972 remain vivid and he fiercely opposes any prescription in Northern Ireland.

He recalls: “We were trying to escape the effects of the gas and I remember turning around and seeing the Paras enter.

“I don’t trust the British government. Would you trust him if they murdered your brother and told lies about him?

Relatives of the Birmingham pub bomb victims called the plans “obscene”.

Julie Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine was among 21 people killed in the 1974 explosions in Birmingham, wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on behalf of the Justice 4 The 21 campaign group to denounce the bill.

“Tell me, Prime Minister, if any of your relatives exploded beyond recognition, where you could only identify your son or daughter by their fingernails because their face had been so badly burned by explosion and only a few of their remains were left intact, would you be so quick to accept the implementation of such obscene legislation? Ms. Hambleton asked.

“You would do everything in your power to find the murderers and bring them to justice, which is exactly what we campaign for every day. ”


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