No.10 is in trouble over plans for a political row regarding amnesty for Irish terrorists, as well as the need to follow through with Troubles trials

  • Number 10 has been arrested for political dispute over amnesty of Irish Troubles terrorists
  • A statute of limitations legislation is likely to be introduced before Christmas
  • The proposals also include a ban of prosecutions against British soldiers charged at the time with shootings.

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.

Tory MP and former Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer (right) said last night that terrorists would be the biggest beneficiaries

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 is preparing for a political row over an effective amnesty for Irish terrorists as part of Government plans to draw a line under Troubles prosecutions

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.’