Irish government should take legal action if UK Troubles legacy law proceeds, says Michelle O’Neill

Legislation before House of Commons would deny human rights to victims, First Minister-designate tells commemoration

The Irish Government should take international legal action if the UK refuses to withdraw proposed Troubles legacy legislation, Northern Ireland First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill has said.

Sinn Féin’s Northern leader said the proposed legislation, the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, currently before the Houses of Parliament, was a denial of human rights to the families of victims of those killed and injured by British state forces in the North.

“The current legislation nearing completion in Westminster has one purpose and one purpose only: to conceal the truth and protect British state forces. It is anti-democratic, it is unjust and it is a denial of the human rights of victims and their families who have campaigned for decades for the truth,” she said.

“The British government should withdraw this legislation. And if the British government do not withdraw this legislation, the Irish Government should confront this denial of human rights through an interstate case and international action against the British government.”


Speaking in Cork at Sinn Féin’s 42nd Annual National Hunger Strike Commemoration, Ms O’Neill said the growth of the party had resulted in a greater than ever demand for change, both North and South, and the party would deliver on this demand for change and a united Ireland.

“The Northern state that my parents and grandparents were born into is no more. The contrived political unionist majority is gone and Sinn Féin has won two historic elections – this year and last – and we are now the largest political party in the assembly and in local government in the North.

“For the very first time, a republican and nationalist and I, as a woman from Tyrone, am poised to hold the post of First Minister in a state that was designed to ensure that would never ever happen. I will never allow anyone to be treated in the way our parents and grandparents were treated.”

Ms O’Neill said there was no contradiction in declaring and delivering on a firm commitment to engage in powersharing with unionism and others in the Stormont Executive while, at the same time, arguing and planning for constitutional change that would end partition on the island.

She urged the Democratic Unionist Party to face up to the reality of last May’s historic Assembly elections when Sinn Féin became the largest party in Stormont and to stop boycotting the power sharing administration which people had voted to restore.

“Their boycott is leading to misery for people who need an Executive in place to lift the cost-of-living burden, to tackle the health crisis, to attract investment, to create jobs, to deliver change, to plan for the future,” she told the large attendance estimated by An Garda Síochána to be over 5,000 people.

Ms O’Neill predicted Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou McDonald will become the first woman Taoiseach of a government that doesn’t include either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael but she said the current Irish Government needs to start preparing and planning for reunification.

“The Government in Dublin must establish a citizens assembly to plan for a peaceful, orderly and democratic constitutional change but be assured, referendums on the reunification of Ireland will happen and to win them, we have to be organised, energetic and relentless in our work.”

The commemoration remembers the 22 republicans who died on hunger strike in British and Irish jails from Easter Rising Irish Volunteer leader Thomas Ashe in 1917 to INLA man Mickey Devine who was the last of ten republicans to die in the 1981 Hunger Strike in the Maze.

Among those in attendance were local Cork Sinn Féin TDs Thomas Gould, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Pat Buckley, as well as former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, former Kerry Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris and former Sinn Féin director of publicity Danny Morrison.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times