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Government’s NI legacy legislation ‘an affront to modern standards of decency’

The Relatives for Justice group delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street.

24 May 2022

The families of Troubles victims have told the Prime Minister the UK Government’s controversial legacy legislation is “an affront to all modern standards of decency”.

The Relatives for Justice group delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street, telling Boris Johnson the law will foster “division and hurt” rather than promote “reconciliation or healing”.

The group, who carried a coffin around Parliament Square and down Whitehall with the word Justice emblazoned across the top, said families have no confidence that the legislation will deliver “any semblance of truth”.

The UK Government has said the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill aims to provide better outcomes for victims, survivors and veterans.

Introduced to the House of Commons last week, the draft laws offer immunity to people who are deemed to have co-operated with an information retrieval body.

The Bill would also stop future inquests and civil actions related to the Troubles, although it does not fully close the door to criminal prosecutions.

The proposed legislation has been widely criticised by Northern Ireland’s political parties, as well as victims’ campaigners, the Irish Government and Amnesty International.

On Tuesday, the delegation from Relatives for Justice, including chief executive Mark Thompson, gathered in a silent protest before delivering the letter to Number 10.

Before entering Downing Street the group walked in a funeral-like procession with placards reading “RIP human rights”, “RIP rule of law” and “RIP accountability”.

The letter to Mr Johnson said: “With this unilateral Bill your Government has shown a reckless disregard for the rights of bereaved families across the entire community, the Good Friday Agreement, the judiciary, the rule of law and the administration of justice.

“To be clear, if passed your Government will have acted in direct contravention of the law, the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights.

“After such a protracted period of time to be forced to engage with this disastrous approach compounds the hurt and trauma of victims in a totally callous manner.

“Prime Minister, this Bill is an affront to all modern standards of decency.

“Far from promoting reconciliation or healing, it will foster division and hurt.”

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Thompson concludes the letter saying: “While we value the opportunity of writing to you at this time, we would very much appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to explain our experiences of harm and conflict and why this Bill is so harmful.

“Meeting with families in person, from all backgrounds, affected by all actors to the conflict, would take little of your time but will explain why this Bill is universally opposed by victims and survivors across the community and receives no consent.”

Mr Thompson told the PA news agency the Bill is about the UK “putting a blanket ban on any examination of what they’ve been involved in”.

He said he wants to make MPs aware of “just how dreadful this Bill is”, adding: “This process the UK propose will not provide a modicum of truth for anyone.”

Mr Thompson, whose brother Peter was killed during The Troubles, said the Bill is “perpetrator centred” and “anti-victim”, adding: “The beneficiaries of this are the people who pulled the triggers and planted the bombs.”

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord, of the Truth and Justice Movement, said earlier that the only people who would benefit from the proposed legislation are the murderers and terrorists.

Raymond McCord
Raymond McCord (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“The losers all round are the victims and their families,” Mr McCord told PA.

He said Mr Johnson, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and many other MPs treat families of Troubles victims as “daft Paddies”.

He said: “If they were at school and they were doing an O-level for Northern Ireland they would all fail. It’s as simple as that.

“And for people who went to university, they’re very uneducated people relating to part of the UK.

“They treat us as if we’re all daft Paddies. We’re anything but it.”

He said he was referring to Mr Johnson and Mr Lewis, as well as “many other MPs”.

Mr McCord added: “They really need to sit down and listen to victims’ stories, victims telling their stories. Not being told by the police, not being told by an MP for Northern Ireland or an MLA.”

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