Politicians from all the main parties on both sides of the Border have signed a document rejecting the UK government’s plans to introduce an amnesty for Troubles-related killings.
Irish Senators and TDs, as well as representatives from the five parties in the Northern Executive, met a cross-community group of victims campaigners at Belfast City Hall on Monday.
Speaking afterwards, John Teggart, whose father Danny was killed by the British army in Ballymurphy, Belfast, in 1971, described it as a historic day. "Today we have cross-community groups and all political parties on both sides of the Border, the first time it has ever happened. This is only the first step. This can be stopped."
Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was killed by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997, said the British government now had "no choice ... every major political party in Ireland now support this, they can't ignore that".
"[The UK prime minister] Boris Johnson is taking on all of the people now. It's not an orange or green issue."
Last month the Northern Secretary, Brandon Lewis, announced that he plans to introduce a statute of limitations banning all prosecutions of Troubles-related killings and other crimes, as well as all legacy inquests and civil cases.
Victims groups, the North's five main political parties and the Irish Government are all opposed to the proposals, which have been criticised as a "de facto amnesty".
Monday's meeting was attended by representatives from the DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP and Alliance, as well as by TDs James Lawless (FF), Patrick Costello (Greens) and Brendan Howlin (Labour) and Senators Emer Currie of Fine Gael and Mark Daly of Fianna Fáil.
They signed a document stating that they “totally reject the British government’s proposals for ‘dealing with the past’, including amnesties for those who committed murder” and supported the victims’ campaigners in their efforts to stop the proposals.
“No individual group, organisation, state forces/agents can be immune from prosecution. Investigations, prosecutions, inquests and civil actions cannot be abolished and due process must take place,” the document said.
Senator Currie, who is her party’s spokesperson on the North, described it as a “momentous” meeting. “There are not too many occasions where there is agreement across the political spectrum.”
Listening to the victims, she said, “the common thread throughout was that they don’t want the British government closing off their opportunity to get accountability, and it isn’t politics, it’s personal, and if we have any hope of reconciliation that they need that access to heal”.
“No one’s giving up. People aren’t letting this go. This isn’t going away,” she said. “I live in hope that the strength in our numbers will be a reality check, that this is not an option for our island.”
The Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Daly, said he had "spoken to members of the European Parliament, the (US) Congress, to get their support, and they are willing to support the victims and families to ensure that they get justice that they deserve".
DUP MP Jim Shannon said his party was "very clear" that it was opposed to the legislation, and their view had been expressed to senior Conservative MPs.
Meanwhile a payment scheme for people who were seriously injured during the Troubles is to open for applications later today (Tuesday).
More than 500 people who sustained serious physical and psychological injuries through no fault of their own are estimated to be eligible for the payments which, depending on the severity of their injuries, will be worth between £2,000 and £10,000 annually. The total cost of the scheme is estimated at about £1.2 billion.
Additional reporting -PA.