The British Government’s plan to make British Soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles immune from prosecution is a ‘betrayal of the peace process,’ according to the SDLP.
The Daily Telegraph and Times newspapers in the UK are reporting that the move will be announced next week.
The legislation will reportedly introduce a statute of limitations on crimes committed before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
It would also make members of loyalist and republican paramilitary groups immune from prosecution.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the move is a “kick in the face” to the victims of the Troubles.
“This is the British Government absolutely betraying all of the victims of the Troubles and betraying the peace process,” he said.
“They haven’t even spoken to us or any other party in Northern Ireland about how they would advance their new proposals.
“They have gone unilaterally without the support of the Irish Government and I just think this is a real kick in the face for the victims who have suffered for far too long and not been given the right to truth or justice since our peace process began.
“It is just so shabby, so cynical and so dishonest.”
If true, this will be the biggest betrayal of victims by the British government & will put a huge obstacle in the way of true reconciliation. This is the most unprincipled & cynical British government in many years and that's saying something. An absolute disgrace. Shame on them. https://t.co/TplYc0Td5C
— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) May 5, 2021
He said the current British Government is “most untruthful” we have seen in many years.
“That is really saying something when it comes to the British Government but to sneak this out at night - after meeting Simon Coveney and not telling him they would be announcing this - to sneak it out in the Tory press the night before a British election is just so shabby and so cynical,” he said.
He noted that things have been “difficult enough” in the North this year, with Brexit inflaming tensions and leading to violent protests in recent months.
“The problem hasn’t changed so the solution hasn’t changed as John Hume used to say so we need to get back to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
“This British Government is only concerned with Tory backbenchers who have big military constituencies.
“They are not actually concerned with the peace process, they are dishonest, they have refused to even face up to their position on this and actually announce it properly.
“They have sneaked it out in the dead of night without even telling the Irish Government. I have never seen the likes of this before; it is absolutely astonishing.”
Mr Eastwood said a failure to address the legacy of the Troubles now will simply, “damn many future generations to deal with these issues because we didn’t have the guts to deal with them.”
“The reality is we have tried to draw a line in the sand and it hasn’t worked. We have 20 years of that and it hasn’t worked,” he said. “The issues have gotten worse.
“We have more and more generations coming forward and campaigning for truth for their loved ones who died even before they were born.
“So, we can’t ignore this. We have to grasp the nettle and deal with it but this British Government has absolutely no intention of doing that.”
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