US group told that UK amnesty agenda for Troubles ‘immoral’

‘They robbed me of my mother, I was 12 years of age. They cannot rob me of justice’

People confront British soldiers on William Street in Derry minutes before paratroopers opened fire, killing 14 civilians on what became known as Bloody Sunday. File photograph: Getty

People confront British soldiers on William Street in Derry minutes before paratroopers opened fire, killing 14 civilians on what became known as Bloody Sunday. File photograph: Getty

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Representatives of victims’ rights groups have criticised the British government decision to implement a statute of limitations on crimes committed during the Troubles as they briefed prominent Irish-Americans on Northern Ireland developments.

Addressing the ad hoc committee on the Belfast Agreement in Washington, representatives of the Commission for Victim and Survivors Northern Ireland said that dealing with legacy issues “must be victim and survivor centred”.

“Closing down the criminal justice process is wrong,” said Mary Moreland, whose husband was killed by the IRA in 1988. “Every victim, even within families, will want different things. But the one thing that has united everyone, practically 99.9 per cent of the population of Northern Ireland, is this proposal to close down the criminal justice process. It’s wrong, it’s immoral and shouldn’t happen.”

Minty Thompson, whose mother was shot dead in 1971 by the British army, described how her family had tried for 17 years to secure an inquest to her mother’s death which finally concluded this year. While the findings are due in September, she does not know if she will get answers.

“They robbed me of my mother, I was 12 years of age. They cannot rob me of justice; that is the one thing I will ask for,” she told the group.

“The Stormont House Agreement wasn’t the be all and end all but it was a foundation . . . this is a very traumatic time, not just for my family but for other families across the board. We need the Stormont House Agreement implemented. We don’t need amnesty, we don’t need a statute of limitations. We need truth . . . I would appeal to you to please try and put pressure on the British government.”

The briefing was the latest effort by politicians and residents of Northern Ireland to leverage American influence to check recent action by the British government on the Northern Ireland protocol and legacy issues related to the Troubles, following the announcement of plans to introduce an effective amnesty for alleged crimes. US president Joe Biden has previously warned that the United States will not sign a trade agreement with Britain if the Belfast Agreement is jeopardised.

State department reaction

On the recent announcement regarding legacy issues, a state department official told the Irish Times: “We are aware of the UK government’s proposal to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. We encourage the UK to continue to engage with all affected parties on this issue.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis is briefing key figures on Capitol Hill this week on the latest developments regarding Brexit and legacy issues amid concern from senior Irish-Americans about the fallout from Brexit on Northern Ireland. Mr Lewis had originally been due to visit Washington this week, but the trip was cancelled due to coronavirus reasons.