The proposal by the North's Attorney General John Larkin for a cessation of all inquiries into Troubles-related killings up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement prompted a landslide of condemnation – but also some support.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued a measured response by saying the suggestion would be hard for families who had lost loved ones in the Troubles to accept. "I think it would be difficult for families on either side of the dark time in Northern Ireland if you were to follow, for instance, that advice and put in place what the Attorney General recommended," he said in the Dáil yesterday.
British prime minister David Cameron insisted the British government had no plans to legislate on any form of amnesty, and added: "The words of the Northern Ireland Attorney General are very much his own words."
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the needs of the victims and their families had to be the priority. "There is already an agreed way for dealing with pre-'98 cases. I have not yet heard a convincing argument for changing that," he said.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said he was deeply suspicious about the timing of the proposal coming at a time when US diplomat Dr Richard Haass is trying to reach agreement on how to deal with the past, flags and parades.
Sinn Fein TD Gerry Adams said "whatever mechanisms are agreed in the future they need to be victim centred". DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said "there are 3,000 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland and those families are entitled to the right to pursue justice".
Support for the idea came from former British Labour Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain. "I think the Attorney General said what needed to be said. He was right to put his head above the parapet, because this issue is not going to go away."
The leader of the new NI21 party, Basil McCrea, also expressed support.