Government says there should be ‘effective investigations’ into Troubles-related deaths

Department remains ‘ready to engage and work’ with UK on ‘this very important issue’

 Last year Northern Ireland’s  Secretary of State Brandon Lewis outlined a new approach to dealing with legacy which included ‘significant changes’.   File photograph:  Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty

Last year Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State Brandon Lewis outlined a new approach to dealing with legacy which included ‘significant changes’. File photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty

 

The Government has said there should be “effective investigations” into all Troubles-related deaths “regardless of the perpetrator”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also said it remained “ready to engage and work with the British government and the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive in partnership on this very important issue.

“Only through a collective approach can we hope to deal with these issues comprehensively and fairly,” a department spokesman said.

The department was responding to a commitment this week by the UK government to bring forward a Bill which will “protect our Northern Ireland veterans of Operation Banner and address the legacy of the Troubles”.

The DUP supported the move, with the Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson saying there needed to be action delivering on those words ensuring that those who served in Northern Ireland have the same protections as their counterparts who served in other conflicts around the world.

A Bill which limits the prosecution of soldiers for offences overseas but which does not apply to service in Northern Ireland is making its way through the House of Commons.

The prospect of a so-called “amnesty” for soldiers is controversial in the North, and runs contrary to the Stormont House Agreement on legacy which was agreed in 2014 but which has not so far been implemented.

Among its provisions – which were agreed by the two governments and the parties in the Northern Executive – was the creation of an independent Historical Investigations Unit to investigate outstanding Troubles-related deaths.

However, in March last year the North’s Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, outlined a new approach to dealing with legacy which included “significant changes”.

Under these new proposals, only cases where there is a “realistic prospect” of prosecution would be investigated, and all other cases would be closed permanently.

The new proposals were widely condemned by victims’ groups in Northern Ireland, by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party and by Government, who continue to call for the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

In a statement to The Irish Times on Friday, a Government spokesman said the Stormont House Agreement “sets out the framework to deal comprehensively and fairly with the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland.

“In terms of issues that have been raised about the treatment of British military veterans, the position of the Government is clear: there should be effective investigations into all Troubles-related deaths, regardless of the perpetrator.

“The rule of law and the protections afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights must apply equally to everyone and must be upheld, and this principle is at the core of the Stormont House framework,” the spokesman said.