PM should halt legacy legislation

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP has written to the Prime Minister urging him not to proceed with the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill in the face of almost universal opposition from victims, survivors and their families.

By Emma Little-Pengelly MLA

Lagan Valley

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The letter, sent in advance of the Bill’s return to Parliament on Wednesday, was also signed by Deputy Leader Gavin Robinson MP, Lord Dodds of Duncairn OBE and the Party’s Assembly Spokesperson on Legacy & Human Rights Emma Little-Pengelly MLA.

Commenting, Sir Jeffrey said:

‘‘The Government’s legacy proposals have been rejected by the vast majority of victims and survivors, who suffered the most during the Troubles and who still live with the terrible legacy of pain, trauma and loss.

An amnesty for terrorists is not only an affront to justice but a gateway to further attempts to rewrite and airbrush the past. As things stand, the only condition placed on a terrorist seeking immunity is that they give their account of the acts of terrorism they were involved in. There is absolutely nothing in the way of protection for those families who they terrorised and left without fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. Indeed those who fled criminal proceedings in Northern Ireland could return to avail of the scheme without any repercussions. This is wrong. It is not too late for the Prime Minister to do the right thing and choose the side of justice and innocent victims. We have not yet passed the point of no return for preserving access to justice. I have urged Rishi Sunak to recognise that imposing this Bill against the express wishes of communities and political parties in Northern Ireland would be a retrograde step. Reconciliation will not be achieved by sacrificing justice. Access to justice must be preserved and the principle of everyone be equal under the law should be protected. The Bill must be scrapped and for good.’’

The DUP’s Legacy and Human Rights Spokesperson Emma Little-Pengelly added:

‘‘The needs of innocent victims were shamefully regarded as dispensable as part of the Belfast Agreement and twenty-five years later it is disgraceful that the Government seems intent on forcing through new arrangements that will extinguish routes to truth and justice for most survivors and bereaved families.

By pursuing an immunity scheme the Bill draws a moral equivalence between the terrorist intent on murder and the soldier and police officer who stood in their way. That is despite paramilitaries being responsible for the vast majority of deaths during the Troubles and most members of the security forces neither needing, nor seeking, immunity from prosecution. The legislation would also perversely open the door for those in receipt of immunity to profit from their offending and place on bar on terrorism being glorified as part of ‘memorialisation.’

The DUP believes these proposals are irredeemable and cannot proceed. We will be bringing forward amendments in the Lords to mitigate some of the worst effects but this will only ever be an exercise in damage limitation. A solution that rewards wrongdoing is no solution at all. The Prime Minister must realise that this will undermine confidence in the rule of law and cause irreparable harm to the foundations of British justice.’’

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