Eamon Martin criticises British plans for Troubles-era ‘amnesty’

Five main political parties in North are set to discuss plan with Brandon Lewis on Friday

 The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said it was ‘deeply disheartening’ to witness a key signatory of the Stormont House Agreement  renege on  that commitment. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said it was ‘deeply disheartening’ to witness a key signatory of the Stormont House Agreement renege on that commitment. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has strongly criticised plans by the British government to end all Troubles-era prosecutions which he said would be seen by victims as “a betrayal of trust which denies justice to them and to their loved ones.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin said he was “particularly disappointed” by the “naïve comments” of the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, in the House of Commons on Wednesday “suggesting that his legacy proposals would allow Northern Ireland to ‘draw a line under the Troubles’.”

It was “disturbing”, the Archbishop said, that “victims and and survivors, those have paid the highest price for the fragile peace we all enjoy today, once more feel marginalised and neglected.”

He asked for “prayers of comfort” for “victims suffering on all sides of the conflict” and “for truth and justice to prevail in the interest of the common good.”

The Archbishop also reaffirmed his support for Stormont House Agreement - reached between the Irish and British governments in 2014 to address the legacy of the Troubles but which not implemented.

He said it was “deeply disheartening to witness a key signatory renege on this joint commitment.”

On Wednesday the Northern Secretary, Brandon Lewis, told the House of Commons that he proposed to introduce in the autumn a statute of limitations banning all prosecutions of Troubles-related killings and other crimes.

This would mean that there would be no future prosecutions of republican or loyalist paramilitaries, or of former British soldiers and police officers, most likely up to 1998.

He also proposed an end to all legacy inquests and civil cases relating to the Troubles.

The proposals have been widely condemned in Northern Ireland as a “de facto amnesty” and have been criticised by victims groups and opposed by the five parties in the Northern Executive.

The DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, said on Thursday the five parties are due to meet the Northern Secretary on Friday to discuss the proposals, and intended to make their views known.

He told the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show on Thursday he would encourage him to meet with victims and to hear their views, and the UK government “needs to listen to what the victims are saying.

“We’ve long made it clear that any process must be victim-centred and victim led. That’s what I said to the Secretary of State yesterday in my initial response to these proposals, and I think it’s vitally important that the voice of victims is heard in all of this.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Thursday there needed to be a “concerted effort right across politics here on this island and internationally to push back against this unilateral bad faith action by the British government.

“I don’t think for one moment that Dublin in particular should afford any form of soft landing for Boris Johnson and his government where they have clearly shredded the Stormont House Agreement and very clearly delivered an incredibly cruel and shameless body blow to victims and survivors.”

The Irish Government made clear its opposition on Wednesday, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin telling the Dáil “it’s not the right way to go. It’s wrong”.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said he did not accept the British government’s plan was “a fait accompli”.