Amnesty for Troubles killings will deepen anguish of families, survivors say

Victims organisation warns Johnson ban on conflict-linked prosecutions ‘fundamentally wrong’

An amnesty for all Troubles killings will deepen the anguish and bitterness suffered by families and bleed into future generations, survivors have warned Boris Johnson.

In an open letter to the British prime minister, the North’s largest cross-community victim support organisation said a blanket ban on conflict-linked prosecutions would be “fundamentally wrong”.

Wave Trauma Centre accused Mr Johnson of ditching the Stormont House Agreement – a cross-party deal on how the legacy of the Troubles should be dealt with – in favour of plans for "perverting the criminal justice system".

His “core motivation” is to protect British army veterans from potential prosecution “by a de facto amnesty that will include the very paramilitaries who murdered their colleagues as well as thousands of civilians”, the letter states.

“We simply cannot believe that veterans would want that to happen to the families of their fellow service men and women killed during the Troubles,” it said.

“This proposal if implemented will not aid reconciliation,” the letter states. “It will cause anguish and bitterness that will bleed into subsequent generations.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney warned an amnesty would be a "huge mistake".

“Murders and breaches of the law in the past during the Troubles must be accountable,” he said. “Families deserve truth and they deserve justice.”

‘No more anonymity’

On Friday, the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said it was dropping the case against a British army veteran known only as Soldier F for two murders and five attempted murders on Bloody Sunday in Derry in January 1972.

Another prosecution against Soldier B for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty – shot twice in the head in Derry in July 1972 – and the wounding of his cousin Christopher was also being discontinued, the PPS said.

It said testimony from the soldiers given to the Royal Military Police after the killings would be inadmissible in a trial because of the manner in which they were obtained.

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered at Derry’s Guildhall Square in support of the Bloody Sunday and Hegarty families. A poster purporting to identify soldier F was left at the scene, demanding “no more anonymity”.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the North needs to "move on to the next phase" of the peace process. "We need to move our society beyond an examination of the past, to the kind of reconciliation and healing that we desire to see in Northern Ireland, " he told Sky News.

Louise Haigh, Britain's shadow Northern secretary, said reports suggest the government was poised to "cruelly" tear up a pledge to families that the deaths of their loved ones would be properly investigated.

“The prime minister should look victims’ families in the eye, and explain why he wants to close the book on their cases,” she said.