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The brother of a victim of the Belturbet bombing with his wife Alamy Stock Photo
Troubles Legacy Bill

Families of Belturbet bombing victims threaten legal action as UK 'hides behind' Legacy Bill

The Bill would grant immunity to some perpetrators of crimes committed during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

THE FAMILIES OF victims of the Belturbet bombing have threatened legal action against the British government over the Legacy Bill.

The Bill would grant immunity to some perpetrators of crimes committed during the Northern Ireland Troubles and would also prevent future civil cases and inquests into legacy offences.

Kevin Winters, the Co Cavan families’ solicitor, described it as “doomsday legislation”, saying it is “serving to shut down all conflict-related cases”.

He claimed that gardaí have identified “up to 80 issues of an intelligence evidential nature” submitted to the Northern Authorities through the Department of Justice, but are awaiting a reply since June. 

“Given the continued delay and in the absence of any response there’s a growing suspicion the so called Legacy Act could seriously undermine cases in the South,” wrote Winters.

“Failure to exchange critical information with their Southern counterparts could impede all unresolved Troubles investigations in the The Republic.

“The Belturbet reinvestigation is now at a critical point and cannot meaningfully progress in the continued absence of a substantive response from Northern Agencies.”

‘Critical point’

The bombing in question took place on 28 December 1972 on Belturbet’s main street. Loyalist paramilitaries planted a car bomb, which killed two teenagers and injured eight other people.

The victims’ families say they will take legal action if gardaí do not receive a reply from Northern authorities within two weeks.

“We are very concerned this doomsday legislation will have an insidious impact on all legal cases in the Republic of Ireland because it could inhibit cross jurisdictional exchange of information especially of an intelligence nature,” Winters continued.

“If ever the Irish government needed a strong legal basis upon which to launch either an inter-State challenge in Strasbourg or to add itself as a Notice Party to a possible domestic challenge in Belfast then they need look no further than Belturbet.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has already said that he is prepared to take legal action against the UK over its Troubles Legacy laws, and Tánaiste Micheál Martin indicated that a decision will be made soon.

Winters said “there’s nothing stopping them”.

“Senior Irish politicians are on record as saying that the entire process must have a “victim centric approach.” To that end the families of the murdered children of Belturbet are stuck outside a victim centric approach because UK Agencies, for whatever reason, won’t send critically important information to the Irish DoJ.”

The group is calling on the Irish government to make a case similar to the one made about The Hooded Men, after they were treated cruelly by British forces during interrogation.

Challenges

This would not be the first challenge to the Legacy Bill.

Victims advocate Raymond McCord is also seeking a judicial review, arguing it is a breach of his human rights under the European Convention.

He has long campaigned for answers around the death of his son Raymond McCord Junior, who was killed by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997.

Heis set to rely on the argument that the legislation is in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“There is a long way to go yet but I believe this is how we will defeat this Bill,” he said.

“This challenge would not be necessary if the Conservatives had listened to those most affected by the Bill, the victims and their families, and if the Government had not ignored our human rights.”

“Time does not make the pain any easier.”

He said that different political parties in Northern Ireland have confirmed their support for his case.

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