Pressure is mounting to stop British plans for an amnesty and to ensure full accountability for its forces’ actions.
On Wednesday, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín named Soldier F, who was found by the Saville inquiry to have murdered five people on Bloody Sunday, in the Dáil chamber. It was the first time Soldier F has been named in the 26 County Parliament after SDLP MP Colm Eastwood previously named him at Westminster.
The 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre, in which 14 civilians were shot dead by British paratroopers, was marked by thousands last month in Derry.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Mr Tóibín (pictured, left) said the British government’s plans to introduce an amnesty on conflict-era prosecutions would ensure “there is no rule of law” in the North and the “perpetrators will get away with murder”.
He said during recent debates he had made an effort on naming every single victim of the Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy, Springhill, those outlined in Operation Greenwich and those in the Police Ombudsman report published on Tuesday.
“Isn’t it shocking that we know the names of the people who lost their lives, the people who were murdered, but we don’t know the names of the people who perpated those murders,” he said.
“Most people would know for example, the name of . . . better known as Soldier F, who is accused of murdering civilians in Bloody Sunday.
“Most people wouldn’t know the alphabet of British Army perpetrators of murder. We need to make sure that people know their names.”
He said the identities of state killers should be in the public domain, “so people know what they have been doing throughout the country.”
He also welcomes indications by the Dublin government that it has raised the issue of the British amnesty plans directly with [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson, the EU and US political leaders.
“Britain is carrying on as if a rogue state, flaunting international law and treaties with impunity. The issue of legacy was explicitly incorporated into the Good Friday Agreement, of which Britain is party to and a co-guarantor of,” he said.
“However, since 1998, any investigations into British collusion from the Barron Report, to the Da Silva report, have been stonewalled. Despite British collusion being identified in report after report, and innumerable court cases, the question of accountability remains unaddressed.
“For goodness sakes, Margaret Thatcher thanked the UVF for their ‘valiant work.’ These are secrets the British government intend to take to the grave and beyond, and the only mechanism to deliver accountability is via consistent pressure from the Irish government and our friends from all corners of the world.”
Boris Johnson has said he intends to bring in a statue of limitations on all conflict-related prosecutions predating April 1998. He said it would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions and “draw a line under the Troubles”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin is set to travel to Washington to meet President Biden in March for the traditional St Patrick’s Day visit, and he is coming under pressure to raise the legacy plans in the US.
Groups of victims of the conflict have urged the Fianna Fail leader to raise the legacy plans with the US President.
“It would be totally unacceptable, it would be a betrayal of the victims of all violence,” said the 26 County Taoiseach Micheal Martin in response to Mr Tóibín.
“There is no sense here for a lot of people, a lot of victims, of closure, of answers in terms of who did what.
“Many, many people feel that they’ve been forgotten about, or the loss of their loved ones has been completely forgotten about, and there is no balance in terms of how we approach that.
“I believe that British government has dragged its feet for too long on legacy in my view.”
Despite another report by the Police Ombudsman this week which points to an overarching policy of Crown Force collusion with loyalist death squads throughout the recent conflict, the British government has failed to respond to mounting anger in Ireland.
The report by ombudsman Marie Anderson found the RUC had colluded with loyalist killers in relation to the series of murders in the 1990s.
Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said the report spelled out “in black and white” that there was “systemic collusion” between state forces and loyalist groups.
“This does go right to the heart of the British government’s policy which was state murder of Irish citizens,” she said.
Lasair Dhearg said there was a long line of evidence that has put beyond doubt that collusion was never ‘an illusion’, but instead an integral part of the British war machine in Ireland.
“The deployment of loyalist death squads was part of a policy developed by British war criminal Frank Kitson to complete targeted assassinations of republican activists and wage Britain’s ‘dirty war’ against the IRA,” they said.
“We in Lasair Dhearg applaud the efforts of the victims families who have brought this report to fruition due to their years of tireless campaigning,” adding that “it will be down to the might of the families again to attain further justice.”
Lawyer Niall Murphy, who represents families affected by the Police Ombudsman’s report, warned that the British government is still trying to shut down future scrutiny of Crown Force collusion.
Mr Murphy (pictured, right) heavily criticised the legacy proposals as he joined bereaved families at a news conference.
“There can be no doubt that the intention of those proposals is to ensure that reports like today are never published again,” he said.
“The British government are attempting an immunity so wide-ranging that it would have made (General) Pinochet blush in Chile.
“This report must be considered a catalyst and a clarion call to ensure that these proposals never become law.”
The lawyer added: “The purpose of the legacy proposals couldn’t be more clear on a day like this.
“They don’t want any more 348-page reports which condemn their police officers for colluding in multiple murders.
“So that’s why they want to close this (ombudsman’s) office and that’s why that proposal can never be allowed to happen, can never be allowed to become law.
“The British government should be ashamed of itself today when one reads this report and when one considers what their published proposals are to do.”