Amnesty proposals a denial of the rule of law, says former police ombudsman

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Former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Lone has called the British government’s proposals for a so-called amnesty in Northern Ireland “unacceptable” and a “denial of the rule of law”.

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She said that the schemes of the statute of limitations were denial of justice.

Baroness O’Lone was speaking at a cross-community event where a group of Troubled victims discussed the government’s legacy proposals.


She said the proposals came as an “extraordinary and terrible shock” to the people of Northern Ireland.

(Left to Right) Billy McManus, John Tegert, Raymond McCord, Julie Hambleton, Michael Gallagher, Kathy McIlvaney and Eugene Reeve Campaign Against an Apology (Liam McBurney/PA)

“They are in direct contrast to all the promises they’ve made,” he said.

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“The proposals that we had to deal with in the past were not enough, but they were few, and they included the possibility of investigation and prosecution.

“It seems that what has happened is that the government has succumbed to a small but very powerful constituency, which was lobbying to end the investigation relating to all problems.”

He said: “The government’s proposals are unacceptable. The first is that they are denying the rule of law.

“They contradict everything the world has been taught about justice and truth and the criminal process.

The proposal, which would take away all legal rights of all victims in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, has never been subject to general consultation.

Baroness Nuala O’Lone

“The second is that despite the government’s claim, the concerns of the victims are not addressed at all in the resolutions.

“Amnesty is a denial of justice and it is wrong. The victims were not even contacted.

“This proposal, which would take away all legal rights of all victims in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, has never been subject to general consultation.”

In July, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis announced plans for a statute of limitations that would end all prosecutions for incidents of trouble by April 1998, and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitary .

The proposal, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier, would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the troubles”, would also end all heritage investigations and civil work related to the conflict.

Raymond McCord, whose son was executed by Loyalists, was among those speaking at the event.

“Boris Johnson tells us it will help us move forward. I want to know, what to proceed with?” Mr McCord said.

“I don’t have an answer. He didn’t tell us where we were headed and where we were going.

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord (Niel Carson/PA)

“These are the words of a fool and the words of a man who fears the truth.

“We’re not afraid of it.”

Julie Hambleton, whose sister was killed in a 1974 IRA bombing in Birmingham, said: “I believe we need to uncover the complicity of Republicans, Loyalists and the state, which we now know as conflicts. Ran so deep during and we’re walking deeper than ever.

“The complaints will continue only if the victims are denied truth and justice and accountability.

“It was not a dirty war, it was a toxic conflict, war, terrorist campaign.

“People in the government are bent on defending their positions at all costs.

“Amnesia Vs. Accountability. What Will It Be?”

We don’t always agree but what we believe is that the government should be held responsible for what happened

Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the Omagh bombing, said: “Boris Johnson says this new bill will improve community relations and break down barriers.

“Well, folks on this panel, we don’t have to break barriers, we’ve broken them ourselves.

“We come from different backgrounds. We don’t always agree but what we believe is that the government should be held responsible for what happened.

Eugene Reeve, whose brothers John Martin, Brian and Anthony were shot dead in 1976 by loyalist paramilitary Glennay Gang, said the apology was “a scam”.

“We’ve been fighting this case for years and years and years,” he said.

“If there’s no justice going to happen, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Sarah McKeegan, whose police officer father was murdered, said: “Boris Johnson is right in saying that the current focus on criminal justice is not working, but he is the most hypocritical in what he proposes to address.

“I do not believe that any new scheme for truthfulness and recovery process will be victim-centric in any way. How can only the truth be known when the state is hiding behind public interest immunity certificates.

A memorial to the men killed during the Sean Graham bookies attack in February 1992 (PA)

Billy McManus, whose father was killed in a 1992 loyalty attack on Sean Graham’s bookies in Belfast, said: “This apology is nothing more than hiding the truth.

“British soldiers, RUC officers, UDR, innocent people on both sides and they apologize. Ask yourself why.

“The British government has murder blood on its hands and they want to wash it off with an apology.”

Kate Nash, whose brother William was murdered on Bloody Sunday, said: “I will never accept an apology. Not for the soldiers, not for the IRA, not for the UVF, or anyone.

“You can’t put people above the law. You cannot get innocent people killed.

“The state should have a high standard and I think you will hold them to a high standard. They got it…


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