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All families need to know the truth, they need to know what happened the victims; TROUBLES 'AMNESTY' PLAN SPARKS FURIOUS REACTION Politicians & bereaved families unite to oppose prosecutions ban.

Byline: PA REPORTERS

A GOVERNMENT proposal to end all Troubles prosecutions has been widely criticised.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis confirmed reports of a proposed statute of limitations which would end all cases up to April 1998.

It would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

The plans, described by PM Boris Johnson as allowing Northern Ireland to "draw a line under the Troubles", would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

They also include a new truth recovery body and an oral history initiative.

The Government is set to consult with political parties and victims' groups before introducing legislation in the autumn.

Relatives of one of the 10 people killed by soldiers in the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast in 1971 have vowed to fight the plans.

Eileen McKeown, daughter of Joseph Corr, said the proposals "will not be tolerated and will be legally challenged".

She added: "The Ballymurphy massacre inquest findings show how the law should work independently.

QA& "All victims need to know the truth, they need to know what happened to their loved ones. We all bleed the same blood, so everybody needs truth and justice and then maybe they can start living their lives.

"We spent 50 years trying to prove that our loved ones were innocent. There are loads of families out there like us and they all need to know the same thing."

Mr Lewis had told the Commons: "We know the prospect of the end of criminal prosecutions will be difficult for some to accept and this is not a position we take lightly.

STATEMENT Brandon "But we've come to the view this is the best and only way to facilitate an effective information retrieval and provision process, and the best way to help Northern Ireland move further along the road to reconciliation.

"It is in reality a painful recognition of the very reality of where we are."

Political parties and bereaved families criticised the statute of limitations as a "de facto amnesty".

Irish prime minister Micheal Martin said the proposals were "wrong for many, many reasons".

DUP chief Sir Jeffrey Donaldson added the proposals would be "rejected by everyone in Northern Ireland who stands for justice and the rule of law", while SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described them as a "serious act of bad faith".

Mr Lewis told the Commons the statute of limitations would apply equally to all Troubles-related incidents, including former members of the security forces as well as ex-paramilitaries.

But Sir Jeffrey said any process to deal with Northern Ireland's troubled past had to be "victim-centred".

He added: "Victims will see these proposals as perpetrator-focused rather than victim-focused and an insult to both the memory of those innocent victims who lost their lives during our Troubles and their families.

"There can be no equivalence between the soldier and police officer who served their country and those cowardly terrorists who hid behind masks and terrorised under the cover of darkness. We find any such attempted equivalence as offensive.

"The Democratic Unionist Party, both publicly and privately has, and continues to oppose, any form of amnesty. Everyone must be equal under the law and equally subject to the law.

"We will oppose any plans that give an effective amnesty to those who murdered and maimed over many decades."

Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the proposals "would protect State forces from their "dirty role" in Ireland.

She added: "I think that once again today, the British Government have set out their STATEMENT of intent and it goes right to the highest echelons of government because it begs the question why they're doing this.

"Particularly given the fact all the five political parties here are opposed to an amnesty, all the victims and survivor groups are opposed to amnesty, as is the Irish Government. So you have to ask the question, why are the British Government intent in taking this route?

"It has to be two things in my mind. It has to be to protect State forces and their dirty role here in Ireland.

"I think it also has to be to protect those in suits who directed British State murder, murder of Irish citizens."

Mr Eastwood said: "Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis have chosen to close down justice." for families who have campaigned for the truth about what happened to their loved ones for decades. Even worse, they wrapped it up in the language of reconciliation.

COMMONS Boris "The message they are sending to the victims of State and paramilitary murderers is that they should give up their campaign for truth because they have become a barrier to reconciliation. It is absolutely perverse.

"You cannot draw a line in the sand on injustice. There is a reason that every party in the North opposes the concept of an amnesty - if we have learned nothing else, we've learned failing to deal with the legacy of the past affects and infects the present. It creates a trans-generational injustice." that makes reconciliation more difficult."

Johnson

Alliance MP Stephen Farry described the plans as an "assault on the rule of law and human rights".

He added: "This approach is framed solely around the perceived need to address what is a false narrative of vexatious investigations of Army veterans.

"It is shocking the Government facilitates a de facto amnesty across the board, including for republican and loyalist terrorists, to achieve this.

"Everyone should be and remain equal before the law. That is what we have when lawbreakers are pursued regardless of where they come from.

"The Government's approach now brings the consequence of a false equivalence between all veterans, most of whom served the community with honour and respect for rule of law, and terrorists."

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Johnson said: "The people of Northern Ireland's t, if we possibly can allow them to, move forwards now.

"The sad fact remains there are many members of the armed services who continue to face the threat of vexatious prosecutions well into their 70s, 80s and later, and we're finally bringing forward a solution to this problem, to enable the province of Northern Ireland's o "draw a line under the Troubles", to enable the people of Northern Ireland's o move forward.

Everyone must be equally subject to law JEFFREY DONALDSON YESTERDAY "I think someone with greater statesmanship and clarity of vision would have seen that and given these proposals a fair wind."

newsni@mirror.co.uk

Everyone must be equally subject to the law SIR JEFFREY DONALDSON YESTERDAY

CAPTION(S):

COMMONS Boris Johnson

STATEMENT Brandon Lewis

MORE AGONY Irene Connolly, whose mother was killed at Ballymurphy, YESTERDAY
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Author:PA REPORTERS
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 15, 2021
Words:1108
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