UK government ‘dragged its feet for too long’ on Troubles legacy, Taoiseach says

British soldiers ‘should be brought to justice in terms of atrocities like Bloody Sunday’, Martin says

 Taoiseach Micheal Martin TD  at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Taoiseach Micheal Martin TD at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

 

The UK government has “dragged its feet for too long” on addressing the legacy of the Troubles, the Taoiseach told the Dáil on Wednesday.

Micheal Martin also said British soldiers “should be brought to justice in terms of atrocities like Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy and others.”

He re-emphasised the Irish government’s opposition to Britain’s plans to introduce a statute of limitations which would ban future prosecutions for Troubles-era crimes, as well as civil cases and inquests.

Instead it proposes an approach based around a new information recovery body which it says “could provide a sense of restorative justice for many more families than is currently achieved through the criminal justice system.”

Victims groups, the North’s five main political parties, the Irish Government and prominent Irish-Americans are all opposed to the proposals, which have been criticised as a “de facto amnesty”.

“It would be totally unacceptable, it would be a betrayal of the victims of all violence,” Mr Martin said.

He said Dublin and London had reached agreement on how to deal with legacy ten years ago, and “we are all agreed in this house, we’re against legacy proposals and against the idea of an amnesty. There needs to be clarity and transparency to what happened.”

The Taoiseach was speaking as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, met with representatives from the Truth and Justice Movement, cross-community group of victims and campaigners who lost loved ones during the Troubles.

They included Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was killed by loyalist paramilitaries, and John Teggart, whose father Danny was among those killed by the British army in Ballymurphy in 1971 and whose brother Bernard was later killed by the IRA.

Following the meeting they hailed a commitment by Mr Coveney that the Irish government would continue to oppose the UK government’s plans.

“Simon Coveney stated quite clearly that himself and the Irish Government supports us, our cross-community group, in officially rejecting the British amnesty proposals,” said Mr McCord.

“They’ll be in further talks with the British government [AND]they have made it clear to them that they are not workable.”

“This is a guarantee that Mr Coveney and his Government will continue what they have been doing [ and will be]a strong voice for us and a strong voice for victims,” Mr Teggart said.

Eugene Reavey, whose brothers John Martin, Brian and Anthony were shot dead by the loyalist paramilitary Glenanne Gang in 1976, said he had given Mr Coveney “a first-hand account of how the victims feel and how some of us having been waiting almost 50 years” and he had “full confidence” he understood the plight of victims.

Fine Gael senator and party spokesperson on the North Emer Currie, who organised the meeting, said the “threat of the amnesty is still very real” and it was important victims were at the centre of the discussions on legacy.

“Today was about reclaiming the position of victims at the heart of this and that’s certainly the commitment that the minister gave, that he can’t accept these proposals.”

The group presented Mr Coveney with a document signed in Belfast City Hall last year by all the main political parties on the island opposing the UK government’s plans, and which was subsequently adopted as a resolution in the Seanad.

Additional reporting - PA.