British Direct Ruler Shailesh Vara was accused of ‘ducking and diving’ from protestors in Derry opposed to his government’s plans for an amnesty covering Britain’s war crimes in the North.
Victims and their families had gathered in the Diamond area of the city during Mr Vara’s visit to demonstrate their opposition to the Tory government’s planned legislation, dubbed the “bill of shame”.
Vara was seen sneaking out of the back door of the venue and was driven off at speed to avoid the protest.
The Direct Ruler had told an audience “there is still room for making amendments” to the legislation but that there was “no one solution” that would satisfy victims as well as British Army veterans and their supporters.
Billy McGreanery, whose uncle with the same name was shot dead by the British Army in Derry on 15 September 1971, said his family will never stop seeking justice.
“It’s nearly 51 years since my uncle was killed and the ramifications of that for my family are still strong today and I will not stop fighting for justice.
“It’s plain to see that wrong has been done in this town and across the north and it has to be addressed, it is as simple as that.”
Mr McGreanery expressed his disappointment that Vara did not meet the small number of of bereaved families who had gathered.
Sinn Féin’s Ciara Ferguson accused Vara of slipping off “like a thief in the night”, up a one-way street, just to avoid speaking to victims and families in Derry today.
“Once again, a Tory minister has demonstrated a total disregard for victims and families who are opposed to its Bill of Shame.
“The British government is forcing through its legacy plans and ignoring opposition from victims and families, all political parties on this island, the Irish government and the Human Rights Commission who have branded it flawed.
“People see this plan as more cover-up by a Tory government that wants to let its own state forces off the hook for killing Irish citizens during the conflict and shut down a route to justice.
“This flawed legislation should be binned, and the Stormont House Agreement of 2014 should be implemented to ensure victims and families have access to truth and justice in a human rights compliant manner.
“Rather than ducking and diving from families, the British Secretary of State should listen to their views and respect their wishes.”
It was an unhappy first outing in Derry for Vara as his claims that businesses in the North oppose the Brexit protocol which prevents a hard border were also rejected as “dishonest and disingenuous”.
Sinn Féin economy spokesperson Caoimhe Archibald said: “It would fit Shailesh Vara better to actually listen to people here and for his government to engage in good faith with the EU to provide long term certainty and stability to businesses.”