Northern Ireland legacy proposals to be probed by Westminster committee

The Northern Ireland Office said proposals would ‘end the cycle of reinvestigations for the families of victims and veterans alike’.

Ulster legacy
Ulster legacy

The UK Government’s proposals for dealing with the past in Northern Ireland have been criticised as MPs announced an inquiry.

In March the Northern Ireland Office launched proposals which pledged to “end the cycle of reinvestigations for the families of victims and veterans alike”.

The proposals included a single independent body to oversee information retrieval and investigation.

They also proposed full police investigations only in cases with a “realistic prospect” of prosecution due to “new compelling” evidence.

The consultation document followed the New Decade, New Approach deal agreed by previous Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in January.

They differed from previous proposals on dealing with the past contained in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

Ulster powersharing
Simon Coveney and Julian Smith (Niall Carson/PA)

The Government pledged in March to begin an “intensive period of engagement” with the Northern Ireland political parties, and the Irish Government, over the proposals.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster has announced an inquiry into the Government’s approach to the region’s troubled past.

Committee chairman Simon Hoare said the inquiry will provide a forum for views to be shared and pledged the committee will do all in its power to ensure future legislation is “balanced, fair and appropriate to the circumstances in Northern Ireland”.

“It is essential that the Government gets this right, not only for individuals and families affected, who want to know what happened to their loved ones, but to support reconciliation in Northern Ireland for future generations too,” he said.

Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy described the Government’s proposals as “wholly unacceptable”.

“It is clear those proposals are designed to undermine the mechanisms already agreed by the British Government, the Irish Government and the political parties in the Stormont House Agreement.

Sinn Fein MPs at Westminster
Francie Molloy (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“This is a further attempt to deny access to truth to families, some of whom have been waiting up to 50 years.

“Now it has been announced that a Westminster committee will examine these proposals.

“Instead of coming up with new proposals and inquiring into them, leading to further delays, the British Government needs to fulfil its obligations and immediately implement the legacy mechanisms contained in the Stormont House Agreement in a human rights-compliant manner.”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, claimed the proposals are “not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights”.

“They also represent a significant departure from the Stormont House Agreement. Ultimately, the current proposals amount to a further betrayal of victims and are the latest attempt to close down paths to justice,” she said.

“Victims’ rights to truth, justice and accountability must be vindicated. Amnesty will be submitting to the Westminster inquiry to highlight a human rights-compatible way forward to finally deal with the past.”

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