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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Pat Finucane Centre John and Marie Toland with their seven children
The North

Families of Troubles victims say passing of Legacy Bill is 'disturbing' and 'upsetting'

MPs yesterday rejected a Lords’ amendment to the Bill, which is now on the verge of becoming law.

FAMILIES OF VICTIMS of the Northern Ireland Troubles have said the passing of the controversial Legacy Bill through the UK’s House of Commons yesterday was “disturbing” and “upsetting”. 

MPs yesterday rejected a Lords’ amendment to the Bill, which is now on the verge of becoming law.

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

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill is opposed by victims’ groups and all political parties in the North.

John Toland was 36 years old when he was shot dead by loyalist terrorists in the Happy Landing bar in Eglinton, Co Derry in November 1976. He had seven children. 

Speaking to The Journal today, John Toland’s son Danny Toland said of yesterday: “We kind of knew it was coming, but as I said to my mum last night, it was very shameful and disturbing to think that the British government are washing their hands of, no matter who murdered who … that they’ve just decided they’d wash their hands of any more investigations”. 

Toland said he is “on a mental rollercoaster going up and down thinking maybe some day someone might have a conscience and admit to my father’s murder or murders of some other people”.

“But if they do admit it, they’re never going to face punishment or go to jail, that’s the way it’s going to be left now,” he said. 

Toland explained that his family had an investigation pending with the Police Ombudsman’s Office, but added that they received a letter about a month ago “to say that investigation was ceased because of the legacy law that was coming into force”. 

Moving forward, he said the family would have to go through the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR). However, he said: “We will never get involved in that at all.”

john toland (1) Pat Finucane Centre John Toland Pat Finucane Centre

Billy McGreanery was aged 41 when he was killed by a British soldier from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards on 15 September 1971. He was unarmed when he was shot. 

The Derry Journal reported last September that a file has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service to consider whether or not charges should be brought for the killing of Mr McGreanery. 

Speaking to The Journal today, Mr McGreanery’s niece Marjorie Roddy said she was “really upset” over yesterday’s developments regarding the Troubles Legacy Bill. 

“It really got to me yesterday because you kind of think of all the time and all the work you’ve done, you get apologies, you get this, you get that, and they can just pull a rug from under you,” Roddy said.

“They just did what they wanted to do and they didn’t take into any consideration the feelings or the actual justice of letting people go to court. 

“They just cover their tracks at all times. They’ve put delays in our way, this has been going on for years and years,” Roddy added. 

She said her family “will not stop” seeking justice for her uncle “because we have gone so far”. 

“We will not stop. It’s very difficult when you’re stopped at every turn, you’re held up at every turn,” she said. 

“An innocent person’s life was taken, there’s a value on somebody’s life, if you take a life you stand up and you go to court and if you think you’re innocent you defend yourself.”

pic billy mcgreanery Pat Finucane Centre Billy McGreanery Pat Finucane Centre

Speaking yesterday, Michael O’Hare, brother of Majella O’Hare, who was shot dead by a British soldier in Co Armagh when she was 12 in 1976, said: “The UK Government has abandoned victims in favour of protecting those who took the lives of our loved ones.

“There are no words to express how deep that betrayal cuts.

“It is not right for the Government to decide who gets justice for serious crimes such as murder and who doesn’t.

“I will continue to fight – the lives of our loved ones mattered. This isn’t over.”

Call for Dáil motion

The Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party Chairperson, Brendan Smith has called for a debate in the Dáil on the passage of the UK legacy bill and asked for Micheál Martin to bring forward a motion expressing the Dáil’s opposition to the bill.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:

“This flawed legislation will deny justice to  families bereaved during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. These families, who have campaigned over the years with great grace and dignity for the truth to be established, continue to endure the pain of loss and to express their desire for  accountability, and justice and truth.”

“It is essential that avenues remain open for this.”

“I strongly feel that Dáil Éireann should formally record its opposition to this atrocity amnesty.”

“No-one, whether in the IRA, the INLA, the UVF, the UFF, the RUC or the British Army should escape justice for committing heinous crimes. It is very important that Dáil Éireann sends that message,” he said.

Legal action

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday said the Irish Government is “seriously considering taking a case to the European Court on Human Rights” over the Troubles Legacy Bill.

He told reporters in Wicklow that this is “not unprecedented and we wouldn’t do it lightly”.

Varadkar said the “Attorney General is preparing some legal advice on what the strength would be of us taking a case to the European Court on Human Rights”.

He added that this case would “essentially say that this act is not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, of which the United Kingdom is a signatory”.

A decision on whether or not the government can pursue a case will be made in the coming weeks.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin is currently in Israel, but speaking to reporters yesterday there, he said “legal advice has been underway for quite some time”.

Martin added that the Irish Government has asked the British government to “pause the legislation”.

“We still ask them to pause the legislation because we do not believe a unilateral decision like this, which the Irish government and which all the other parties in Northern Ireland do not agree with, is a wise move.”

In a statement today, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said communities must rally in opposition to the Bill.

“The British Government wants to cover up its despicable deeds here in Ireland and all of those bereaved and maimed during the Troubles will be expected to suffer in silence,” Carroll said.

“Truth and justice are rights that have never truly been afforded to victims here. The Tories now intend to rob them of their legal route to closure,” he said. 

“Campaigners have vowed not to give up in their pursuit of justice and will not stop opposing this rotten legislation. Everyone must stand behind them and rally behind all opposition to the Government’s Bill of shame.”

With reporting by Diarmuid Pepper, Christina Finn, Stephen McDermott and Press Association

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