Sixteen members of the United States House of Representatives, from both parties, have written to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, British Direct Ruler Chris Heaton-Harris, and the British Ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce, to raise their “profound concern” over the pending British government Legacy Bill for the north of Ireland.
The legislation, which could become law as soon as next month, proposes an amnesty from prosecution and an end to all investigations, inquests and prosecutions arising from the conflict, including all British war crimes.
In the letter, signed at the top by Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and Democrat William Keating, the representatives state the legislation as written “does not uphold the shared principles at the foundation of our partnership or the principles which underline the Good Friday Agreement” and is an “inherent threat to the regional peace and stability”.
They point to the unity among all the political parties and other stakeholders throughout Ireland and Britain in opposition to the measure “is resounding and consistent”.
“Such a fundamental policy shift on the complex and sensitive issue of the Troubles should not be made unilaterally.
“As you know, His Majesty’s Government and the Irish government already have an agreed starting point for justice and accountability issues, the Stormont House Agreement, which also enjoyed the support of the majority of political parties in Northern Ireland.
“Now is an opportunity for pause, reevaluation, and most importantly, complete consultation with stakeholder and victims affected by violence during the Troubles. Reconciliation will not be possible without acceptance from the victims and their families, all of whom deserve justice, transparency, and truth.”
In addition to Reps. Fitzpatrick and Keating the letter is signed by Reps. Richard Neal, Michael Lawler, Kevin Mullin, Chris Smith, Mike Quigley, Gerald Connolly, Brendan Boyle, Barbara Lee, Brian Higgins, Mary Gay Scanlon, James McGovern, Chellie Pingree, John Larson and Stephen Lynch.
Relatives for Justice CEO Mark Thompson welcomed the US Congressional intervention.
“There has rightly been consistent criticism of this shameful bill by US Congressional representatives and the international community,” Mr Thompson said.
“This latest bi-partisan Congressional letter is most welcome for families and we thank all those representatives involved.”
It follows a letter last month from the influential Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement to key leaders in the Biden Administration, including members of the National Security Council, urging the administration to promptly and publicly oppose passage of the Legacy Bill.
The Ad Hoc Committee was organised in early 2019 by a group of forty Americans who had worked for decades on the Irish peace process. They are a bi-partisan group that includes six former ambassadors and two former special presidential envoys.
Co-Chair and former congressman Bruce Morrison stated: “The Biden Administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to help the UK government in Northern Ireland from a recent Presidential visit to the appointment of Congressman Joe Kennedy III as a Special Presidential Envoy. However, there comes a time when the Administration needs to put aside government protocol and stand up and protect the values that are at the core of the Good Friday Agreement and that comes down to truth, justice and reconciliation.”