A round-up of comments and reactions in the wake of the British announcement of its intention to introduce legislation to end investigations into state killings related to the conflict in the north of Ireland.
“The Tory government’s announcement of an amnesty for British soldiers is nothing but the same old story.
“Their top priority is to get their soldiers get off scot-free. They have had to include paramilitaries to give an appearance of even-handedness. But their real intent is clear from their constant references to “vexatious” prosecutions of former soldiers. Never a mention of the vexatious prosecution of civilians.
“The Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six etc. Were those prosecutions not vexatious? Likewise for scores, if not hundreds, of prosecutions in the North which have turned out to have been frame-ups. Were these not “vexatious?”
“British Governments down through the years have stood by those who killed in their service. What’s happening now in the North is just the Empire coming home.”
– the Bloody Sunday March for Justice Committee
“The Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign does not accept any part of the proposals set down by the British Government today. The British Government’s primary goal is to protect its armed forces.
“The families will continue to pursue truth and justice and will not be told to draw a line under a cover up and a deliberate campaign on behalf of the British Government to refuse to release documents and information on what their armed forces really did that evening on 8 May 1987.
“Truth is the integral part of Dealing with the Past.
“While it is not surprising that the British Government has taken this approach, justice will only be achieved when the whole truth and nothing but the truth is uncovered.
– the Loughgall Truth & Justice Campaign
“The Brit Govt has just legalised murder. Irish lives don’t matter. The state recruited loyalist agents armed them and let them get away with murder. Now they have given them immunity from prosecution. Our group is going nowhere we have waited this long we can wait some more.”
- Mid-Ulster Families
“Since the murder of my mother, Kathleen Irvine, 50 years ago, we, as a family, have never been consulted, never been offered any help, nor ever been spoken to regarding the murder of our beloved mother. We are not going away.”
“We woke up in a new world this morning. A world where the government can murder and retrospectively exonerate itself. That makes all of our lives worthless. We can be rubbed out with impunity as if we never existed. We cannot, will not, accept it.”
Anne Cadwallader, of the Pat Finucane Centre
“These proposals are about putting British state forces who killed Irish citizens beyond the law. It is further insult to grieving families.
“This is about the British government simply protecting their own state forces and the policy makers responsible for shoot to kill, state murder and collusion; facilitating impunity and blocking accountability.
“If the current legacy process is to deliver for victims, in a human rights compliant manner, there can be no amnesty or statute of limitation for British state forces or intention to interfere with due legal process in respect of legacy inquests, judicial reviews, civil cases or prosecution cases involving British soldiers already before the courts.”
- Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill
“The Tories in Britain have shown that the people of Ireland are not deserving of justice and not deserving of truth. The reality is that British authorities have never been transparent or legitimate in how they have acted in the North – today was just another crystal clear example of their malfeasance.”
– Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle
“It is disturbing that victims and survivors, those have paid the highest price for the fragile peace we all enjoy today, once more feel marginalised and neglected.
“I was particularly disappointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s naive comments in the House of Commons suggesting that his legacy proposals would allow Northern Ireland to ‘draw a line under the Troubles’.
“Dealing with the legacy of our shared past is not an easy task. It is a complex undertaking which belongs to all of us. It has no quick fix. No line can be drawn to relieve the deep hurt still carried in the aftermath of years of violence, death and life-changing injury.”
– Archbishop Eamon Martin
The United States would not silently tolerate such actions and coverup by a government in Africa, Asia, South America or the Middle East; it can not in good conscience be silent now. No “special relationship” should extend to condoning injustice and human rights violations. We are reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
– Ancient Order of Hibernians
“I do not believe it is the right thing to do in accordance with our rule of law for these families as would be the case for my family in England, a family in Scotland, or family in Wales.
“If an offence occurred during this period and evidence came to light (about) those responsible, they would be prosecuted. Why would we not prosecute in Northern Ireland?”
– Former Bedfordshire Police chief Jon Boutcher
“[This is] an amnesty for state and non-state actors that acted on behalf and in collusion with the British state, people who always believed that they would never be held to account for their actions, and that the truth behind Britain’s dirty war in Ireland would remain forever hidden by the British state.”
– Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
“I think what has happened here is such a terrible, terrible betrayal of the victims. To deprive them of all their legal remedies simultaneously is a total abdication by government of their responsibilities for the operation of the rule of law,”
– Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan
“This is a shocking proposal issued by a government which claims to adhere to the rule of law in that is seeks to abolish completely all meaningful and judicial accountable processes.
“We’ve heard many arguments recently in the courts about the sovereignty of parliament and that parliament can undo anything it has previously done, but to take a step that would abolish a historical and ancient judicial process by which controversial deaths can be examined, the legality of that is very questionable.”
– Former Director of Crown Prosecutions in the north of Ireland, Barra McGrory
“The families of victims of British State violence are once again to be thrown under the bus. To the British Government they are expendable, the interests of the British State trump any notions of truth or justice for victims or their families.”
– Former Republican Sinn Féin leader Des Dalton
“This proposal represents an unprecedented intervention by London in the criminal justice system and the policing arrangements that were central to the Good Friday Agreement.
“This is only happening because Downing St is determined to protect former soldiers/police/security service members accused of the murder of women, men and children.
“The declared intention to close down inquests particularly in the wake of the Ballymurphy inquest demonstrates a shocking disregard for an actual functioning truth process which has delivered.
“In respect of any investigative process it is deeply concerning to see the spectre of national security raising its head.
“National security has repeatedly been misused to cover up London’s role in the murder of Pat Finucane and many others.
“These proposals show Boris Johnson is running scared of the rule of law and human rights standards. These plans will further undermine confidence in policing and criminal justice structures. This will do nothing to further reconciliation between the peoples of these islands.”
– Pat Finucane Centre
“Over 900 civil cases currently reside in the courts regarding actions by all actors to the conflict. There are over 450 complaints residing with the Police Ombudsman’s Office which relate to RUC misfeasance in public office and criminal wrongdoing regarding state and non-state killings. There are over 45 inquests waiting to be heard and 40 awaiting progress, these inquests largely involve the state withholding information, even from coroners.
“For two decades a cabal of senior officers in the PSNI, former members of RUC special branch and the Ministry of Defence have been fighting families tooth and nail, and using secret courts and other proceedings to prevent effective investigation, delay investigation and discredit investigations. Their work has resulted in today’s announcement.
“This proposal is the mother of all cover ups.
“Having perniciously fought families for all of this time for the British government to now somehow suggest that without the rule of law the UK government will hand over truth and information to families out of the goodness of their hearts is an insult to our collective intelligence and a denial of our collective experience. These proposals will legalise state impunity. In order to achieve this the UK government is willing to make the interests of every single person affected by every single killing expendable – this is breath-taking.”
– Relatives for Justice
“The British empire has a long and blood stained history across the world and they have much to fear from having to own up to how much of it was sanctioned from the very top – rather than the actions of a few ‘rogue’ individual soldiers.
“From Bloody Sunday to Ballymurphy, we know that the top brass of the British military were culpable in murder. If these kinds of cases are tried before the courts, the image curated by the British establishment of an army on a peacekeeping mission between two warring tribes in the North would be further shattered.”
– People before Profit