Lord calls the Tories’ Troubles amnesty ‘legally dubious and morally corrupt’

Support us and go ad-free

Controversial plans to ban prosecutions for Troubles murders are “legally dubious, constitutionally dangerous and morally corrupt”, a former Northern Ireland secretary has said.

“Blanket amnesty”

The scathing criticism was levelled at Westminster by Labour peer lord Peter Hain as he urged a rethink by the UK government over what he branded “a blanket amnesty”.

Following a long-running stalemate over dealing with Northern Ireland’s troubled past at Stormont, earlier this year the Tory administration published a command paper outlining its intention to introduce a statute of limitations on crimes committed during the conflict up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

The contentious proposals, which prime minister Boris Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles”, would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the bloody period. In addition, the package of measures included a new truth recovery body and an oral history initiative.

The move has been condemned by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland as well as the Irish government, and a range of victims’ and survivors’ groups.

Lord Hain (Archive/PA)
Lord Hain (Archive/PA)

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Hain used the opportunity to raise the issue in parliament at second reading of the Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill, which is designed to protect powersharing at Stormont by offering greater stability in the event of a fresh political crisis.

Describing the command paper as the “most shocking document” he had come across in his 50-year political career, Hain said:

It proposes what is in effect a blanket amnesty which would include those who carried out some of the most unspeakable atrocities imaginable during what is still euphemistically called the Troubles.

He added:

It would halt all court proceedings on crimes related to the Troubles both criminal and civil. It would halt all inquests even those currently listed for hearing. It would say to traumatised and still grieving victims ‘What happened to your loved ones is no longer of any interest to the state’.

And it says to the perpetrators ‘What you did to those victims is no longer of any interest to the state’.

And this from a Government that purports to respect and uphold the rule of law. These proposals are legally dubious, constitutionally dangerous and morally corrupt in my view.

I am raising it here in an effort to try and get the Government to think again before the Bill is brought to Parliament.

Responding, newly-appointed Northern Ireland minister lord Jonathan Caine said:

The Government is committed to bringing forward legislation to try and deal with this subject and hopefully very, very soon.

The Tory frontbencher, who served as a special adviser to six secretaries of state for Northern Ireland, added:

It will focus on providing better outcomes for victims and survivors, principally through looking at information recovery. But also importantly ending the endless cycle of reinvestigations and possible prosecutions of former members of the armed forces.

The government has previously pointed out that normal criminal justice processes have in the past been set aside in Northern Ireland in the interests of peace and reconciliation, including early prisoner release, restricting jail sentences, and secret decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.

The Canary has reported on alleged crimes which may have involved the British state that could go unpunished as a result of the amnesty.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us