Government rules out ‘amnesties’ for Troubles killings

Tánaiste Simon Coveney rejects any suggestion killers will escape justice

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney attends  a St Patrick’s Day dinner at the Embassy of Ireland in Belgravia, London on Wednesday night.  Photograph: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney attends a St Patrick’s Day dinner at the Embassy of Ireland in Belgravia, London on Wednesday night. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Dáil he has made it clear to Northern Secretary Karen Bradley that “no amnesties” are provided for in the Belfast Agreement.

“The Irish Government has been clear we will not support any proposal to introduce such a measure for any state or non-state actors,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Coveney was responding to Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary and Sinn Fáin deputy leader Pearse Doherty in the controversy over remarks by Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley that security force killings were not crimes.

Ms Bradley apologised on Thursday following a clarification to the House of Commons on Wednesday evening after her remarks earlier to the parliament. She had said no security force killings in the North were crimes while “over 90 per cent of killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorist and every single one of those was a crime”.

The Tánaiste told the Dáil he had met the Northern Secretary at St Patrick’s Day dinner at the Embassy of Ireland in London on Wednesday night. He said he made clear to her the “impact of her statement on many families who were deeply hurt and felt they would not get truth and justice” through proposed measures.

Prosecutors will announce next week if soldiers will face trial for the Bloody Sunday killings of 14 innocent civilians in Derry.

Mr Coveney said he had asked her to give reassurance that the British government was still committed to the Stormont House agreement, which sets out the means to deal with legacy issues from the Troubles.

Perpetrators

He also called on her to “confirm that they wouldn’t support any form of amnesty or statutory limitations that would mean certain killings wouldn’t be fully investigated because of who the perpetrators would have been”.

And he pointed to Ms Bradley’s statement on Thursday which he described as a “strong attempt” to provide clarification. He said that she would be visiting Belfast on Thursday evening and might comment further and directly contact families who had been seriously distressed by her remarks.

In the House of Commons Ms Bradley stated on Wednesday that fewer than 10 per cent of killings during the Troubles were at the hands of military and police personnel.

“They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way,” she said.

Mr Coveney said the timing of the comments “couldn’t be worse”.

“This is a time of real sensitivity for many victims of violence and terrorism too,” he said.

Mr Calleary said Ms Bradley’s comments “ignored the grief” of people in Ireland and could not “go unchecked”.

“Yesterday’s remarks were absolutely callous and completely out of order,” he said, adding that they were “calculated”.

Mr Doherty said Ms Bradley’s remarks were utterly unacceptable from a minister deemed responsible for Northern Ireland. “It was an outrageous and ridiculous statement.”

He said her remarks followed a promise by British prime minister Theresa May to bring in a statute of limitations of 10 years to protect serving UK security members from prosecution for such incidents.

He said the UK was refusing to implement the Stormont House agreement that sets out a means to deal with legacy issues of the Troubles including those by British security forces.

He said they also had to deal with security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

‘Good person’

The Tánaiste said he had a long meeting with Ms Bradley on Wednesday evening. He asked her to publicly state her government’s support for all agreements on the North and a public commitment that there can be no amnesty for past crimes.

“I think she accepted all those things and I understand there is a strong attempt by the Secretary of State to do those things,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Doherty said Ms Bradley’s comments did not state her government’s commitment to implement the Stormont House agreement on dealing with past injustices. He added that Ms Bradley had said “the language was wrong” but that was not sufficient - the real question was one of intent.

Mr Coveney said he believed Ms Bradley was “a good person” who had made a mistake which she now acknowledged.