UK to offer conditional amnesty for Troubles-related offences

Individuals will have to co-operate with commission for reconciliation and information

British prime minister Boris Johnson speaking during the first day of a debate on the queen’s speech, in the House of Commons on Tuesday. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images

British prime minister Boris Johnson speaking during the first day of a debate on the queen’s speech, in the House of Commons on Tuesday. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images

 

The UK government will offer a conditional rather than a blanket amnesty under amended plans to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, it announced on Tuesday.

According to information published alongside the queen’s speech, individuals who co-operate with a new independent commission for reconciliation and information recovery will “receive a guarantee that they will not be prosecuted”.

However, those who are “not deemed to have earned their immunity” could still face prosecution.

Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis “based on an individual’s co-operation with the body’s inquiries,” the UK government said.

It is understood that existing civil cases which will continue, but there will be a bar on new civil claims. Inquests already under way will proceed but those which are open and have not progressed will move to the new body.

British prime minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Tuesday the UK government had listened and responded to the concerns of political parties, victims and survivors groups, veterans and other civic-society organisations, who were opposed to the plans for a statute of limitations outlined in 2020.

“The previous approach was not working. We believe that this will help with effective information recovery which provides answers for families and delivers on our commitments for Northern Ireland, ” the spokesman said.

Victims and survivors groups, human-rights organisations and politicians in the North were among those who were strongly critical of the amended proposals on Tuesday, expressing concerns that there was still a lack of clarity and it would block access to justice.

Sandra Peake, of the Belfast-based Wave Trauma Centre, said the plans would “prioritise the wishes of perpetrators over victims and survivors”.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told RTÉ radio it was “good news that they’ve abandoned plans for a blanket amnesty for British soldiers and terrorists” but it was important London now engage on the new proposals.

The queen’s speech did not explicitly mention the protocol but a promise “to prioritise support for the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and its institutions” was viewed at Westminster as a coded reference to a threat to unilaterally disapply the Northern Ireland protocol.

DUP criticism

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson criticised the inclusion of a language and culture Bill while the issues around the protocol remain unresolved.

In a further signal there will be no swift resolution to the political stalemate, Mr Donaldson confirmed that he will remain at Westminster for now, rather than taking up the Assembly seat he won last week.

“I will not leave this house until this protocol issue is resolved, I will not leave this house until the political institutions in Northern Ireland have a stable foundation,” he said.

The queen’s speech was poorly received in Dublin, and the deterioration in relations between the two governments was underlined by a phone call between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Mr Johnson which was understood to have been difficult and tetchy at times, with clear disagreements on the British approach to the protocol.

In his response, European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefcovic said the European Union was working together to find joint solutions, but reiterated these would be part of “implementing the protocol” in a less intrusive way rather than getting rid of it and warned Britain against unilateral action.

Talks between EU and UK officials about the protocol have been ongoing for months, and Mr Šefcovic is expected to speak with UK foreign secretary Liz Truss in the coming days.

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE