Downing Street prepares for a political row about an effective amnesty to Irish terrorists, as part of government plans to end Troubles-related prosecutions.
The Christmas legislation for a statute to limit offences by either side of the conflict that occurred between the end 1960s and the Good Friday Agreement is due for introduction.
Following months of debate over the opposition to Northern Ireland’s amnesty, the final plan was finally agreed upon.
The proposals would mean an effective ban on prosecutions for British soldiers charged over shootings – and for offences committed by Republican or Loyalist terrorists where new evidence emerges. They would apply, however, to terrorist attacks on the British mainland such as those at the Birmingham pub blastings.
Johnny Mercer, Tory MP (right), former Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer said that terrorists will be the largest beneficiaries
A Northern Ireland Office source justified the decision to press ahead with the proposals, adding: ‘There cannot be any meaningful moves towards reconciliation until the threat of prosecutions has been removed through the introduction of a statute of limitations.’
Johnny Mercer (Tory MP, former Veterans Minister) said last night that terrorists were the greatest beneficiaries. Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley warned that if these were the same proposals ‘dressed up in a new suit, they will have universal opposition’ from victims of violence and British Army veterans who served in Northern Ireland.
This was after an opinion poll by the principal organisation representing Troubles victims found that 70% of Northern Irish people were opposed to amnesty.
The Mail was informed yesterday by the Government that it intended to continue with its plans for a statute-of-limits.
The Northern Ireland Office source said: ‘We have heard a lot of noise about the way forward we set out over six months ago, but those shouting the loudest have not produced any viable alternatives. It would have been possible to reach a consensus on an alternative way forward if there had been one.
‘Legacy issues in Northern Ireland are extremely challenging, sensitive and divisive. They cannot be ignored. We cannot allow veterans and victims to remain in such a cruel limbo, 23 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
‘The proposals we have put forward are focused on allowing Northern Ireland’s society to move towards a more reconciled future.’
Downing Street prepares for a political row about an effective amnesty to Irish terrorists, as part of government plans to line a path under Troubles prosecutions
The fear that these proposals will not endear terrorists to an Information Recovery Body might be enough to make them cooperate once again with it. This paper understands that people would only face fines for refusing to co-operate – not jail.
Mr Mercer said veterans would not support the plans, adding: ‘We want to see an end to the unfair pursuit of Army veterans. This does not necessarily mean that we need to cut off access for family members to justice.
‘The biggest groups that will profit from this and welcome it most are terrorists. Army veterans don’t want an amnesty. They want to see those who broke the law prosecuted where evidence exists.’
Sinn Fein also called on the ‘amnesty proposals’ to be dropped last night, claiming: ‘It is clear the British Government is not listening to victims and survivors or to the political parties.’