UK plans to block Troubles prosecutions ‘simply not on’ – Taoiseach

Micheál Martin to attend Derry event to mark 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘Unilateral action’ by British government will ‘fly in the face of families of victims’.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘Unilateral action’ by British government will ‘fly in the face of families of victims’. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

There can be “no unilateral action” by the UK government on the legacy of the Troubles, the Taoiseach has said ahead of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Speaking to The Irish Times in advance of events to commemorate the shootings in Derry on Sunday, Micheál Martin said the UK’s plans to block all Troubles-era prosecutions were “simply not on”.

He said “they fly in the face of the families of all the victims and all of those who lost their lives” from all communities and that the British government must “move away from” its proposals.

“It goes against everything we’ve been doing on legacy, particularly agreements that have been entered into by the British and Irish governments, to deny families of victims access to the truth,” he said.

Mr Martin said the fact that the Bloody Sunday families “persisted on the journey for truth and justice, I think, in its own way, influences the wider importance of access to truth and justice for all victims of violence”.

Thirteen people died and others were injured when the British army opened fire on anti-internment marchers in Derry’s Bogside on January 30th, 1972. A 14th person died later.

Wreath

The Taoiseach will lay a wreath at the memorial to the victims in Derry on Sunday and meet privately with the relatives of the deceased. Other political and church leaders from across the island are also expected to attend, and the President will deliver an online address to a commemorative event.

Mr Martin paid tribute to the Bloody Sunday families and thanked them for their “resilience, for their persistence, and above all for their dignity in pursuing truth and justice”, which he said stood as a “monument” that would “inspire others to continue to seek access to the truth”.

Bloody Sunday, he said was one of the “foundational events of the entire Troubles” as “an injustice that remained at the heart of Northern Ireland for a long, long time”. However, he said the example of the families spoke to “the capacity to reconcile, to remember but also to dedicate oneself to rebuilding and to building a new future”.

A “heartfelt sense of their loss is always there”, he said, “in the hearts and minds of the Irish people across the island”, but the memory of Bloody Sunday should remind everyone, particularly those in public life, “of the need to work together to build a genuinely better future for the younger generations and to make sure that they never, ever experience something like that”.