Home News Labour leader asks PM to explain ‘Troubles amnesty’ to victims

Labour leader asks PM to explain ‘Troubles amnesty’ to victims

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer quoted Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine, in the Birmingham bombings, when he asked the Prime Minister to explain the government’s position to victims of such attacks. They were speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions.

There have been reports the UK is set to announce a statute of limitations to end all prosecutions related to the Troubles in Northern Ireland before 1998. It has already been blasted by survivor groups.

Proceedings against Soldier F, accused of killing two men on Bloody Sunday, recently collapsed.

The amnesty will prevent any further such prosecutions and also draw a line under investigations into terrorist atrocities before the Good Friday Agreement 23 years ago.

Sir Keir said: “A blanket amnesty, including for known terrorists is plain wrong.

“I was in Northern Ireland last week and it’s absolutely clear that the government’s amnesty is not supported by the political parties in Northern Ireland and it’s not supported by victims groups.

“Last Thursday, I spoke to victims of terrorism at he Wave Trauma Centre in North Belfast, they haven’t even been properly consulted on this proposal.

“If things are to move forward in Northern Ireland, any discussion has to start with the victims.

“Politicians in London can’t simply draw a line under terrorism and other crimes, and then force it on those most affected.

“I want to quote Julie Hamilton, Prime Minister. Her sister Maxine was among the 21 people killed by the IRA in the Birmingham pub bombings.

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“She says, Tell me, Prime Minister, if one of your loved ones was blown up beyond recognition, where you were only able to identify your son or daughter by their fingernails, would you be so quick to grant their murderers an amnesty or propose such obscene legislation?’

“What does the Prime Minister have to say to Julie, and she’s listening, and other victims like her?”

Prime Minster Boris Johnson responded: “I think that our house will acknowledge the suffering of victims like Julie that are their families.

“Of course, nothing I can say or do now can in any way mitigate her loss.  That is clear.

“But it is also true that the people of Northern Ireland must, if we possibly can allow them to, move forwards now.

“The proposals that are being brought forward are measured, they are balanced and they have a wide degree of former prime ministers and former Labour leaders.

“And you will recall that it was under that labour administration that many terrorists were unfortunately given effectively an amnesty and they were allowed to escape the full consequences of their crimes. That is the reality.

“Whilst the sad fact remains, and this is of course no consolation to people like Julie. that there are many members of the armed services who continue to face the threat of vexatious prosecutions and are well into their 70s and 80s.

“We are finally bringing forward a solution to this problem to enable the province of Northern Ireland to draw a line under the province, to enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward.

“I think someone with greater statesmanship and clarity of vision would have seen that and given these proposals of fair wind.”

Former head of the Army General Lord Dannatt described the Government’s plans as “the least worst solution” and ”welcomed” the move.

But he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This isn’t the solution to everyone’s problems.

“I call it the least worst solution, but it does provide a mechanism whereby investigations can continue, questioning can continue so that families who lost loved ones during the Troubles get to know what happened but without the fear of prosecution being held above the heads of military veterans.”

He said he expects the Government’s command paper will set out what proportion of deaths in the Troubles were caused by terrorists and by the military.

Ireland’s former Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan wrote on Twitter: “Most unwelcome news from UK on legacy issues.

“Unilateral departure from Stormont House Agreement undesirable and regrettable.

“Both Governments need to meet ASAP to discuss further.”

Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney suggested the position could change later this year.

“This is UKG (UK Government) outlining its position,” he tweeted.

“Irish Government has very different view (Stormont House), as do Northern Ireland political parties and victims groups.

“The Northern Ireland Secretary and I have committed to an inclusive dialog to try to agree consensus and that’s underway.”

More than 3,500 people died during the conflict, which stretched from the early 1970s to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in 1998, while tens of thousands more were left injured.

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