Sir, – I know of the concerns many of your readers have about the British government’s draft legislation on the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. We have continued to listen carefully to all sides, to reflect and react. In that context, we have this week published a series of significant changes to the Bill, seeking to respond to those concerns.
Specifically the changes involve: “allowing ongoing criminal investigations, inquests and consideration of prosecution decisions to continue until May 2024, ensuring a smooth transition between the ending of the current mechanisms and the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) taking on full responsibility for dealing with legacy cases; placing the ICRIR under a duty to offer victims and their families the opportunity to submit personal impact statements – these will be published if the person making the statement so wishes, subject to limited exceptions; placing the ICRIR under a duty requiring it to take reasonable steps to secure information relevant to the assessment of the truth of a person’s account as part of their application for immunity from prosecution; revocation of this immunity if an individual is subsequently convicted of terrorism offences or offences connected to terrorism committed after immunity was granted; placing a duty on the ICRIR to produce guidance related to determining a request for immunity; confirming that the Commissioner for Investigations, when exercising operational control over the conduct of reviews, must comply with obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998; and placing a duty on the ICRIR to publish a statement explaining how each of its reviews was conducted, thus enhancing the transparency of its work.”
These proposals are with the House of Lords for consideration and debate, before the Bill returns to the Commons.
The British government remains committed to making legislative progress so that the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery can be established as swiftly as possible. – Yours, etc,