Oireachtas report calls on Britain to ‘abandon’ plans to offer immunity for crimes committed during Troubles

Report also advocates for the Irish and British governments to ‘intensify their engagement’ to support the Belfast Agreement

An Oireachtas committee has called on the British government to scrap the controversial legacy bill that would offer immunity from prosecution to perpetrators of crimes during the Troubles who co-operate with it.

The House of Lords is beginning its committee-stage consideration of the Legacy and Reconciliation bill this week.

But the Oireachtas committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement today called for the bill to be “abandoned” in favour of a “collective path forward, that is victim-centric”.

The Irish committee today published its report on the series of hearings it has had with architects of the Good Friday Agreement, which is also known as the Belfast Agreement.


Since last May, it has held a number of public sessions with figures integral to the creation of the Belfast Agreement, including former taoisigh Bertie Ahern and John Bruton, fromer prime minister John Major, former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and former US Senator George Mitchell, who was co-chair of the multiparty negotiations.

The report also calls for efforts to “maximise the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement” and calls on the British and Irish governments to “intensify their engagement” with more frequent meetings taking place at political and official level, with more opportunities for British and Irish ministers to “meet informally and privately”.

It praised the agreement as being the “produce of empathy, partnership, compromise and political bravery” and said that every effort should be made to ensure the lessons of the Peace Process “inform the next generation of political leaders in Northern Ireland, in Ireland and in the United Kingdom”.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie called for the Democratic Unionist Party to clarify what the “endgame” of its consideration of the recently-agreed Windsor Framework was.

The Framework seeks to improve the operation of the politically vexed Northern Ireland protocol and was agreed following months of negotiation between the British government and the European Commission. However, the DUP is yet to indicate if it will accept the agreement and take up its seats in Stormont, in turn allowing for the resumption of a functioning Northern Ireland executive.

“Everyone is being very respectful in giving the DUP space, but it would be very helpful to know what the endgame is. What is the overall endgame? Is it to bring us back to powersharing and therefore the institutions up and running and a newfound trust and confidence in the Good Friday Agreement?” she asked.

The committee’s report also outlines how there was a “broad consensus” among those who appeared before it that detailed planning would have to take place in advance of any referendums on constitutional change, such as a vote on a united Ireland.

It says the committee will “endeavour to outline more specific recommendations in future reports”, including forthcoming work on “perspectives on constitutional change”. Rose Conway Walsh, the Sinn Féin TD for Mayo, said themes would include the economy, welfare and taxation, education and a separate section for unionists to ensure those voices are heard. An interim report is to be produced after each segment, she said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times