Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

16.18 14 Jul 2021


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The British government has now "taken the small glimmer of hope" away from the families of victims of the Troubles, one victims' group says.

She was speaking after UK ministers confirmed they intend to introduce a statute of limitations that would effectively end all prosecutions related to the Northern Ireland Troubles.

It would apply to ex-paramilitaries and former members of the security forces for incidents before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

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The NI secretary of state Brandon Lewis said he believes it'll move Northern Ireland further towards reconciliation.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, claimed the move would allow Northern Ireland to "draw a line" under the Troubles.

However, the move is opposed by all five of the main political parties at Stormont and the Irish Government.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney today said the Irish Government "has a very different view" to the UK about the issue, and that the proposals aren't a "fait accompli".

Families of victims of the Troubles have also voiced their concern and opposition to the move.

Sandra Peake is CEO of WAVE Trauma Centre, and she spoke to Moncrieff following the announcement.

UK government's decision on Troubles prosecutions 'morally wrong', victims' group says

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She said communities in Northern Ireland haven’t been properly consulted with about the proposals, despite promises they would be.

She said: “Today we have this proposal, and it’s causing a large degree of upset.

“If this comes to pass, it is an effective amnesty and would undermine the rule of law. It says to people here ‘we don’t value life’, and that the life and death of their loved one didn’t matter. It also says to perpetrators that we’re no longer interested in what you did.

“That amnesty becomes an official amnesia, and in some ways compounds the injustice for families.

“People have been in tears this morning… they feel this small glimmer of hope, that someone would be held to account, has been taken from them."

She suggested the move is "simply wrong", adding she doesn't believe it will have the desired effect of reconciliation.

She observed: “I’m not sure who will be reconciled with who. Victims and survivors… many of them don’t want to carry this or hand it to the next generation.

"They don’t want to have this hanging over them their whole life - they need to know their loved one’s death mattered, and it has been properly and fully investigated.

“If anyone can be held to account, they should be held to account.”

Ms Peake said many veterans do not want this legislation either.

She believes there remains a threat of violence in the North, and this move will further destabilise peace in the region.

She observed: “Let’s look at what has happened elsewhere in the world - if you attempt to bury the past, we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. You only need to look at the former Yugoslavia.

“I can’t emphasise enough - we’ve very concerned about what’s coming down the tracks, and how simply morally wrong it is.”

Ms Peake said she's heartened by Minister Coveney’s comments indicating this isn't a done deal, and called on the Irish Government to now hold firm in their stance.

She added that trust in the British government is now at “an all-time low” in Northern Ireland.

Main image: Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Picture by: House of Commons/PA Wire/PA Images

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Boris Johnson Brandon Lewis Northern Ireland Simon Coveney Troubles

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