Varadkar urged to appeal in Europe if UK Troubles legislation enacted

Controversial Bill would halt prosecutions such as that of killer of Aidan McAnespie

A relative of Aidan McAnespie has called on incoming taoiseach Leo Varadkar to take a case to Europe if the UK Government’s controversial legacy Bill is enacted.

Former soldier David Jonathan Holden (53) has been found guilty of manslaughter, having killed Mr McAnespie at an army checkpoint in February 1988. He will be sentenced in the new year.

He is the first veteran to be convicted of a historical offence in Northern Ireland since the Belfast Agreement.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill will place a ban on all such prosecutions on all protagonists arising out of the Troubles. Though both paramilitaries and State forces will benefit from the effective amnesty on prosecutions, the legislation is seen primarily as allowing crown forces to avoid prosecution.


Seeking justice

The Government has consistently stated its opposition to the proposed legislation, as have all the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Una McCabe, a niece of Mr McAnespie, will make the plea at a webinar organised by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) on Saturday which will also feature Fergus O’Dowd, the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement, and Belfast solicitor Niall Murphy.

Ms McCabe is the daughter of Éilish McCabe, Aidan’s sister, who died in 2008 at the age of 50 and was one of the founders of Relatives for Justice. Mrs McCabe was one of the chief campaigners seeking justice following her brother’s death.

Ms McCabe said: “If this legislation goes through, I want Leo Varadkar to make it clear to Rishi Sunak that the Irish Government will take a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

“I want the Irish Government to take the case on behalf of all the victims to prove that nobody is above the law and even after the passage of time that justice can still prevail.

‘Lies and cover-up’

“Aidan’s case should be a platform for other families and give so much hope to families who have been subject to lies and cover-up.”

A legal judgment by a human rights commissioner attached to Europe’s leading human rights organisation has called for the legacy Bill to be scrapped.

It was written by Dunja Mijatović, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe which is not attached to the European Union. It is made up of 46 countries which have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The commissioner calls on the UK government to consider withdrawing the Bill. She urges a return to previously agreed principles which provide a basis for a human-rights-compliant approach. Any steps to address the legacy of the past must put the rights and needs of victims at its heart,” the report into the UK government’s approach to human rights states.

In previous criticism of the Bill, she has said she believed it ran a very significant risk of being ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times