Controversy Legacy Bill passes through Commons…

Not much unites our local parties, but they all agreed on their opposition to the Legacy Bill. Unfortunately, like most things, our views count for very little at the mother of parliaments. A bid by the House of Lords to amend the bill was voted down by 288 to 205. From the BBC:

The bill ends new Troubles-era cases and inquests and offers conditional amnesty to those accused of killings.

The Irish government is considering legal action against the UK over the bill which the Democratic Unionist Party said was “abhorrent”.

The bill will return to the Lords next week before going for royal assent.

It has been widely opposed by victims groups and all of Northern Ireland’s political parties.

The government has said the legislation, which applies to all former members of the security forces and ex-paramilitaries, is an attempt to draw a line under the events of the past.

Prosecutions that are currently ongoing will continue to conclusion.

Veterans groups – such as the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement – widely support the bill.

However, some other military veterans have criticised it.

On Tuesday, the Lords backed an amendment to give victims’ families a greater say in granting immunity from prosecution to offenders.

But the Conservative majority in the House of Commons rejected that on Wednesday, clearing the path for the legislation to be sent for royal assent.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told the House of Commons it was incumbent on the government to find a process that “can deliver positive outcomes for as many of those directly affected by the Troubles as possible”.

“We must be honest about what we can realistically deliver for people in circumstances where the prospects of achieving justice in the traditional sense are so vanishingly small,” he added.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minster) Leo Varadkar said it was “the wrong way to go about dealing with legacy issues in Northern Ireland”.

“There aren’t many things that all of the five main parties in Northern Ireland agree on but they all agreed this is wrong, and this is not victim-centred and not human-rights proofed,” Mr Varadkar told reporters in County Wicklow.

He said the Irish attorney general is preparing advice on whether the case could be taken to the European Court of Human Rights, “essentially saying that this bill, this act is not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, of which United Kingdom is a signatory”.

DUP assembly member Emma Little-Pengelly said the “abhorrent” passage of the bill represents a “dark day for innocent victims of the Troubles”.

Ms Little-Pengelly said the bill “plays into the hands of those who want to airbrush the past”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was “angry and ashamed” at the outcome of the vote and called on the Irish government to intervene.

“The British Government doesn’t care about the rights of victims but the international human rights standards that we all enjoy must be defended,” he said.

Speaking before the debate, Sinn Féin MP John Finucane described the bill as devastating for families, adding it would unilaterally close the door on them getting truth and justice.

Mr Finucane’s father, solicitor Pat Finucane, was shot dead by loyalist gunmen at his home in Belfast in 1989.

Grainne Teggart, of Amnesty International UK, said it was a “dark day for justice” and that the law only absolves “those responsible for conflict-related abuses – and, shamefully, all under the guise of reconciliation”.

Victims’ rights campaigner Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was murdered by loyalists in 1997, said the UK government had shown no compassion for victims.

“My next step is taking the government to court, [they] simply don’t care about truth and justice,” he said.

Kenny Donaldson, from victims’ organisation South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), said the government had “effectively relinquished their responsibilities in overseeing justice”.

“It is regrettable that they were not willing to accept the very reasonable amendment which came from the House of Lords yesterday which would have ensured that victims and survivors could feel somewhat empowered.”

Meanwhile, the new shadow Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Hilary Benn said a Labour Government would repeal the law:


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