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File image of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Leah Farrell
The Troubles

Taoiseach appeals to UK government to not enact Troubles Legacy Bill as govt mulls legal action

Speaking today, Varadkar said: ‘It’s not a small thing for one state to take a case against another state, but this is a serious situation.’

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has called on the UK government to not enact the Troubles Legacy Bill, as he awaits legal advice on a possible inter-State case.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill is opposed by victims’ groups and all political parties in the North but is on the verge of becoming law – it is expected to receive royal assent and become law next week.

The bill includes a form of limited immunity for some perpetrators of crimes committed during the Troubles and would also prevent future civil cases and inquests into legacy offences.

Speaking on Wednesday, Varadkar said the government is “seriously considering taking a case to the European Court on Human Rights” over the controversial bill.

He re-iterated this stance when speaking to reporters in Co Cork today.

“If it is enacted, then we have a decision to make as to whether or not we take an inter-State case,” said Varadkar.

An inter-State case occurs when one state brings a lawsuit about alleged violations of a human rights treaty against another state.

Varadkar told reporters that the government is awaiting legal advice from the Attorney General and that this advice is expected in “the next couple of weeks”.

“There’s of course the legal question as to whether we have a strong case and what that case would look like,” said Varadkar.

He added: “There’s also the political question, because it’s not a small thing for one state to take a case against another state, but this is a serious situation.”

While Varadkar noted that the “bill hasn’t yet been enacted”, he acknowledged that “it looks like that is going to happen”.

“The bill is not yet law and we’re still appealing to the British government to pause it,” said Varadkar.

“They don’t have to enact this legislation, so we continue with that appeal to the British government not to enact this legislation.”

Varadkar added that what the British government is doing is “wrong” and said that the five main parties in the North and all the opposition parties in Britain agree.

“It’s clear that the five parties in Northern Ireland are all united on this,” said Varadkar.

“The opposition parties in Britain don’t think it’s a good idea and have said that they will repeal it.

“It’s not for me to analyse the motives of the British Conservative Party, but I think it’s pretty clear that this is the wrong thing to do.

“It’s not a victim-centred approach or a human rights centred approach and we’ll have to reflect on what actions we take, but we’ll have see the legal advice from the Attorney General and certainly the Tánaiste and I will have to sit down and talk about it with the AG when we have it.”

Victim’s legal challenge

Meanwhile, Varadkar was also asked if the State would support separate legal challenges by victims’ groups.

Yesterday, victims campaigner Raymond McCord launched a legal challenge against the bill at the High Court in Belfast.

McCord said he is seeking a judicial review, arguing it is a breach of his human rights under the European Convention.

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

“Today in Belfast’s High Court my legal challenge against the British Government’s shameful Legacy Bill began. There is a long way to go yet but I believe this is how we will defeat this Bill,” said McCord.

“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 UK Government had not ignored our human rights.

“Human rights of victims are irrelevant to the Conservative Government. I have no doubt that victims will be delighted that legal action has started. In the courts we are victims, not Catholics and Protestants.”

When asked about backing this appeal, Varadkar said: “We don’t have the legal advice yet and we can’t make a decision without the legal advice.”

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