Republicans and loyalists briefed ahead of the unveiling of the UK government’s amnesty plan
Loyalist and Republican paramilitary officials were aware of the UK government’s plans for a de facto amnesty ahead of its announcement yesterday.
it was because they had had briefings with intermediaries.
Loyalist paramilitary groups are said to be in favor of the statute of limitations, but have called for the deadline to be after 1998.
Meanwhile, Republicans have indicated they can agree to the amnesty but not shutting down all other legacy mechanisms, including the Troubles investigations.
The document Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past, released yesterday by the UK government, contained few surprises over Westminster’s intention to end future criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons plans for a “statute of limitations, to apply also to all incidents of unrest.”
“We know that the prospect of an end to the criminal prosecution will be difficult for some to accept, and it is not a position we take lightly,” Lewis said.
“But we came to the idea that this would be the best way to facilitate an efficient process of collecting and providing information, and the best way to help Northern Ireland move forward on the path of reconciliation.
“It is a painful recognition of the reality of where we are.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The sad fact remains that there are many members of the armed forces who continue to face the threat of vexatious lawsuits long after 70 and 80 years.
“We are finally proposing a solution to this problem, to enable the people of Northern Ireland to end the unrest and enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward.”
But speaking in Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The introduction of what amounts to a general amnesty for all security personnel, and all paramilitaries, for murders and other crimes, until l ‘Good Friday deal, is not the right way to go.
“I do not believe in a general amnesty for those who have committed murders, whether they are state actors or whether they are involved in terrorist or illegal organizations.”
The families of the victims reacted angrily to the move.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was among 21 people killed in the 1974 IRA bombing in Birmingham, wrote to Mr Johnson accusing his government of losing “sight of its moral backbone, ethics and justice “.
Michael O’Hare, brother of 12-year-old Majella O’Hare, shot dead by a British Army soldier in 1976, said: “These proposals are a total and unacceptable betrayal. They don’t have to be successful.
“The UK government is inflicting great pain on my family and other victims deprived of justice.”
Eileen McKeown, daughter of Joseph Corr, one of 10 people killed in Belfast in shootings involving British soldiers in August 1971, said the proposals “will not be tolerated and will be legally challenged”.
“The findings of the investigation into the Ballymurphy massacre show how the law should operate independently,” she said. “All victims need to know the truth … to find out what happened to their loved ones. We’re all bleeding the same blood, so everyone needs the truth andd justice. “