Protests held in North as Troubles legacy Bill debated at Westminster

More than 100 people picket outside the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast city centre

Troubles victims and bereaved families held protests in Northern Ireland as MPs debated the British government's controversial legacy plan at Westminster. A letter of opposition was delivered to 10 Downing Street.

More than 100 people picketed outside the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast city centre, while at a protest in Guildhall Square in Derry 200 pairs of shoes, each representing a victim of the conflict, were used to spell out on the ground the word No.

In London protesters carrying a coffin labelled “justice” and placards bearing images of gravestones and the words “RIP human rights” held demonstrations outside Westminster and the British prime minister’s residence.

In Belfast, many of the protesters carried photographs of lost relatives and placards opposing any amnesty for Troubles killings.

Marian Walsh, whose son Damien was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in Belfast in 1993, told the demonstration those responsible for crimes should face prosecution.

“I believe anyone who has done anything wrong in this conflict should be brought to court,” she said.

“They shouldn’t be given an amnesty. You can’t give people immunity for the terrible things which happened here. So many lives lost and so many people badly injured, you just can’t push that under the carpet and say it didn’t happen.”

Natasha Butler, the granddaughter of Paddy Butler, who was killed by British soldiers in Springhill in west Belfast in 1972, said all victims were united against the “Bill of shame”.

A new inquest into Butler’s death and four others killed in the Springhill shootings is due to begin next year.

His granddaughter told the protest outside the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast that the tabled legislation would “drive a horse and cart” through the human rights of victims.

Hope for families

Ms Butler said the planned inquest had offered families hope of “truth and accountability”.

“Now we see that cruelly and painfully taken away from us by the British government’s legacy Bill,” she said.

“This constitutes a breach of trust and complete disregard to all victims and all families stood here today. It has destroyed our hope of establishing the truth surrounding our loved ones’ murders.”

John Teggart, whose father was killed by soldiers in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971, also attended the protest in the city centre.

“We are here because we are demanding the Bill of shame by the British government to be taken off the table. Victims are angry because the latest proposals by the British government is an amnesty for British soldiers.

“They are covering the state’s involvement in the conflict. This affects all victims, right across the board. They all have the same rights. There are no victims supporting this Bill at all.”

Sinn Féin and SDLP representatives were among politicians who also attended the protest. – PA