‘Bill of Shame’ passes into law
‘Bill of Shame’ passes into law


The British government’s notorious cover-up legislation, which became law this week, has already been hit with several legal challenges, including over a dozen by victims of its war crimes in the north of Ireland.

The new legislation offers full legal impunity to those accused of killings during the conflict and will halt new court cases and inquests relating to events prior to 1998.

It is being opposed by a growing international justice and human rights campaign led by the families of the victims of its atrocities. Protests have been stepped up, and this week saw giant banners unveiled at the grounds of Celtic FC in Glasgow.

A so-called ‘Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR)’, which is intended to supplant existing legal processes, is being set up. But calls for the body to be boycotted have grown louder following the installation of a former assistant chief of the murderous RUC police, Peter Sheridan, as its ‘Commissioner for Investigations’.

Christine Duffy’s 15-year-old brother Seamus was killed by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC officer in 1989. No one has ever been convicted of the killing.

“The person that was appointed this morning to investigate is an ex-RUC man - the same people that investigated my brother’s murder,” she said. “I had no confidence in them then, and I have no confidence in them now. It is the RUC investigating the RUC.”

The passage of the legislation into law was condemned at the United Nations. Its Human Rights office said it “deeply regretted” the move and expressed concern that it violates Britain’s international human rights obligations.

All the main parties in the north of Ireland oppose it, with Sinn Féin MP John Finucane, whose father was shot dead by a loyalist death squad, saying it was devastating for families, and DUP assembly member Emma-Little Pengelly describing it as “abhorrent”.

Several legal firms have already announced legal action over the legislation. They argued that the bill is “unconstitutional and unlawful” and applied for “emergency judicial intervention”.

They said it is in breach of Articles 2, 3, 6 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Niall Murphy and Setanta Marley, from KRW Law, said it “represents the most egregious breach of international human rights standards”.

One of those mounting a legal challenge is Billy Campbell, whose 19-year-old brother Tony was shot dead by the British Army in February 1973, one of six shot dead in the New Lodge area of north Belfast that day.

In February 2021 Attorney General Brenda King ordered a new inquest into Tony’s killing. But his family believes the government’s legacy bill will prevent the inquest being heard.

Mr Campbell said the death of his brother nearly killed his mother and still affects him.

“It just destroys you. Why is the British government deliberately rushing this through? The answer is, they are trying to hide their dirty war,” he said.

Mr Campbell said he believed the 26 County government had been slow to respond to the incoming legislation.

“They are saying they will think about bringing them (the British government) to court. This is the reason I am doing this (taking a High Court challenge), and other people are doing it, because they won’t move.

“What have Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin done? Nothing. I want justice for my brother. The Americans are against this bill, the EU is against it, everybody is against it. The Irish Government should be doing more.”

Others taking cases being represented by KRW law are Liam Shannon, one of the Hooded Men who was tortured by the British Army after being interned in 1971; Gemma Gilvary, on behalf of her brother Maurice Gilvary, and Mary Braniff, on behalf of Anthony Braniff, both shot dead on the orders of Crown Force double agent Freddie Scappaticci in 1981; and Margaret McReynolds, a victim of the Ormeau Road Sean Graham bookmakers murders in 1992 which involved the collusion of the RUC police.

Madden and Finucane are taking cases on behalf Billy Thompson, son of innocent mother-of-six Kathleen Thompson, who was shot dead by the British Army in 1971; Jonathan McKerr, son of Gervaise McKerr, who was shot near Lurgan in 1982, and Teresa Jordan, mother of Pearse Jordan, shot in Belfast in 1992, both killed in shoot-to-kill ambushes by the RUC; and three cases involving the collusion of the Crown Forces with paramilitary death squads – Linda Hewitt, sister of Sam Marshall, who was murdered in Lurgan in 1990, and Eamon Cairns, father of Gerard and Rory Cairns who were shot in their home by the UVF in October 1993, and Una Eakin, widow of Gerard Casey, who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989 in Rasharkin, north Antrim, using weapons and information supplied by British Army agents.

Three other families of victims are represented by HCC Lawyers: Annette McGavigan, a 14 year old schoolgirl, who was shot by the British Army in her school uniform on the 6th of September 1971; ex-serviceman Thomas Burns was shot by the British Army on the 12th of July 1972 in north Belfast; and Jim McCann, one of the New Lodge 6, shot in a massacre by the British Army on the 3rd of February 1973 in Belfast.

A number of inquests and other legal processes, including efforts to hold a public inquiry into the death-squad assassination of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane and the investigations into the killings overseen by Britain’s double agents inside the IRA, have all been deliberately delayed ahead of the implementation of the new legislation.

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane, son of the murdered lawyer, said he supported the families’ action against the British government’s ‘cynical and cruel’ Legacy Bill.

He repeated calls for Dublin to take an interstate case against the British government.

“I support legal challenges at the Belfast High Court against the British government’s flawed and irredeemable Legacy Bill,” he said.

“It is absolutely cynical and cruel that the British government has forced through this bill despite clear opposition from victims, all the political parties in this island, human rights experts, churches, the US, UN, EU and the Irish government.

“I am calling on the Irish government to confront this denial of human rights and breach of international human rights law through an interstate case and international action against the British government.

“Sinn Féin will continue to stand with families in their campaigns for truth and justice, many of whom have been campaigning with dignity and determination for five decades.”

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