The lack of consultation with families of Troubles victims is a worrying feature of the British Government’s proposals on dealing with the legacy of the past, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Emer Currie, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Northern Ireland, led a cross-party motion in the Seanad last year to reject the British Government’s previous proposals, including a blanket amnesty on troubles-related cases. She is now asking how the British Government can be so confident this legislation will deliver for families, when it didn’t consult them on it.
Senator Currie said, “I am once again in despair for the families of victims who are dealing with the news that legislation has been introduced in Westminster that will affect their cases without any consultation with them whatsoever.
“We are living with the consequences of Boris Johnson and the British Government’s policy in relation to the island of Ireland, the hallmark of which has been unilateralism and brinkmanship, rather than prioritising partnership and reconciliation. Nowhere is that more stark or sensitive than in relation to legacy.
“For years, the families of the victims have been told the system doesn’t work, but suddenly, an approach is promised, involving robust and independent investigations into killings. We suddenly find that unprecedented access to the UK documents record will be opened, promising an in-depth examination of UK Government policy towards Northern Ireland during the conflict. Why are these only in the gift of the British Government now? And if so, why is the access coming with strings attached? And most importantly, why has there been no consultation with the families of victims.
“They have already given so much, including in the Good Friday Agreement that saw the release of prisoners and a cap of two years for future prosecutions. Instead of comprehensive legacy proposals for victims, today we see yet more concessions for perpetrators, where immunity will be given to those judged to have cooperated by a panel appointed by the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland. It’s just not right. Victims tell me today they feel betrayed. We have always said that all families, regardless of the perpetrator, must have access to effective investigation and a process of justice.
“It looks like Inquests will be barred unless they have reached an advanced stage. Civil cases have also been blocked from the day of the first reading of the Bill before Parliament. This is a tragic day for the rule of law and Britain’s reputation in upholding it, whether that is in relation to the proposed over-riding of the Northern Ireland Protocol, it or the continuing suppression of truth, justice and accountability in relation to legacy.
“This legislation cannot be a fait accompli. Victims and families, not veterans and perpetrators, must be at the heart of this issue.”