Campaigners against legislation to give an amnesty to Britain’s war criminals in the north of Ireland have said Boris Johnson’s departure as Prime Minister could “be a window of opportunity”.
The British government continues to advance legislation to end what it describes as “vexatious prosecutions” against killer soldiers and others.
Relatives of the victims have voiced their anger and frustration over the plans, which have been dubbed the ‘Bill of Shame’. Strong opposition to the plan continues to grow in Ireland, Britain and the US.
Mark Kelly, whose 12-year-old sister was shot dead by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier in west Belfast in May 1981, hopes there will be a change of heart at Westminster.
“There definitely is a window of opportunity for some of these people to stand up and understand the north and understand the people in the north of Ireland and what it means to them - truth and justice,” he said.
“Boris Johnson resigning, I don’t think will make any difference to the bill unless there is pressure brought to bear on them.”
Mr Kelly said he will continue to campaign for his sister.
“We are going to be here continuing the fight and lobby them and try to do our best to try and get it changed or to get it done away with completely,” he said.
Mr Kelly said families of victims are unable to move on.
“The families aren’t moving forward,” he said. “I see my sister lying dead in the street. I get up every single day of my life and wish it was me.
“It’s ridiculous to even think that we might give up and walk away. We are not doing it, none of the relatives will.”
Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice is one of several campaigners expected to address the US House Foreign Affairs committee at Congress next week.
“We have a window of opportunity to reverse and overturn this bill,” he said.
“That window is the demise and ousting of Johnson and his team, including [former Direct Ruler] Brandon Lewis.
“For all the political parties, Irish government and particularly all the victims and victims groups to put the pressure on and reiterate that there is no support for this whatsoever on the island of Ireland.”
Daniel Holder of the Committee on the Administration of Justice said “It really depends on who comes in next”.
“The previous Secretary of State Julian Smith did not and does not support the current heavily criticised bill, but many other Tories do,” he added.
Separately, revelations that the British Army’s ‘elite’ SAS unit carried out war crimes in Afghanistan, involving the murders of 54 civilians and possibly hundreds more, have brought increased attention to the planned amnesty in Ireland.
The revelations were made in a BBC Panorama documentary by former soldiers and backed up by research from Afghanistan. They showed the soldiers faked evidence to justify point-blank murders and subsequently carried out near-identical cover-ups. Units competed with each other to carry out the greatest number of killings.
In a tweet, former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the revelations “point to the reason why the British establishment covers up for their death squads who killed numerous people here. They continue to be deployed to do the same murderous deeds in other wars.”