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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Northern Ireland

Johnson's claim that halting prosecutions will 'draw a line under the Troubles' provokes outcry

The proposed Troubles amnesty has been labelled the “mother and father of all cover-ups”.

THE UK GOVERNMENT’S plans to halt all criminal prosecutions in cases related to the Troubles in Northern Ireland has provoked a furious reaction from victims’ families.

The proposals would prevent police from investigating Troubles-related incidents and halt live court proceedings, up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would “enable the province of Northern Ireland to draw a line under the Troubles.” 

The plan has provoked a furious reaction from across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland, with critics saying it amounts to an amnesty for atrocities.

The families of people who died in Troubles-related violence have expressed deep disappointment following the announcement, with Johnson’s comments drawing criticism.

Kathleen Gillespie, whose husband Patsy died in 1990 when he was chained into a vehicle and forced to drive an IRA bomb to a British army base, said the families of victims feel “cheated”.

“He means brush it all under the carpet, that’s what he’s saying. ‘Draw a line’, I don’t know, it won’t draw a line,” Gillespie said to Morning Ireland on RTÉ.

There are too many people who will object to the decision, too many people will be hurt because of it. We just feel cheated and that leaves us dangling. 

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine Hambleton was killed in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974, said the UK government’s annoncement left her “incandesent with rage”.

“It is something that we never thought would be possible in a country that claims to have given the western civilised world democracy,” she said.

Nuala O’Loan, former police ombudsman of Northern Ireland, said she had not anticipated that the amnesty would include an end to all legacy inquests and all civil actions, in respect of damage and injury suffered during the troubles for the relatives of those who died.

O’Loan said it was a “terrible, terrible betrayal of the victims and their families”. She said the only person she has seen welcoming the announcement was Lord Dannatt, who is a former head of the British army. 

“This paper by the (UK) government says that only nine people have been prosecuted. But the reason that they’re not being prosecuted is that they have stopped prosecuting them,” O’Loan said.

They’ve stopped making decisions to prosecute. It’s not a question that the evidence is not there.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the proposals should be met with a “wall of opposition”. She called on the government not to engage in discussions or round table meetings on the proposals, describing them as “softening up measures”.

McDonald described the plan as the “mother and father of all cover-ups”.

“It’s been a long standing policy by successive (UK) governments, but most brazenly pursued by Boris Johnson’s Tory administration, to give cover to their boys in the army, in the security forces, but also their agents and proxies, those that… colluded with the British state to kill citizens and civilians here,” she said.

And more importantly, to cover up and to give shield, not just to the men in uniform, but to the men in suits at a far higher level in the establishment chain, who directed and controlled these activities.

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