SDLP leader Colum Eastwood: "This legislation is about protecting the British state and preventing the prosecution of state forces."
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP has described British Government claims that legacy legislation is designed to promote reconciliation as ‘an out and out lie’.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the Foyle MP outlined a number of cases where victims of British Army, IRA, UDA and UVF murders would be denied justice.
Mr Eastwood rejected the unilateral decision by the British Government to abandon the Stormont House Agreement, an international agreement which commands the support of a majority of Assembly parties.
He said: “This legislation is a gross abdication of the commitments the British Government entered into at Stormont House.
“It is a breach of the international treaty between the British and Irish Governments and fundamentally, it goes absolutely against the wishes of people in Northern Ireland and against the interests of victims here.
“It is made worse by the pretence from Ministers that this is about reconciliation. That is an out and out lie.
“This legislation is about protecting the British state and preventing the prosecution of state forces.
“The hard truth is that British soldiers and paramilitaries alike who committed murder in Northern Ireland will be shielded from justice by this legislation.
“It has no political support, no support from victims and no support from human rights bodies in the North.
“This is a unilateral move from a government that has given up on the principle of partnership when it comes to Northern Ireland.
“They will nakedly defend their own interests, regardless of the cost to people here. The SDLP will oppose this legislation at every stage.”
Amnesty International UK have also voiced their opposition to the Bill.
Grainne Teggart, Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International UK said:
“Alarm bells should be ringing for all who care about the rule of law and access to justice. This bill is a de facto amnesty designed to make perpetrators of heinous crimes untouchable.
“No matter how Government dress this up, the Bill is not designed to deliver for victims and promote reconciliation. Instead, it will remove victims’ access to the courts and send a message that they are less worthy of justice than victims of the same crimes in any other circumstances. This Bill would create a grossly unfair two-tier justice system.
“If enacted, it would also set a worrying precedent internationally, giving a green light to other countries that want to deny justice to victims of human rights violations.
“The ‘Troubles’ bill would sound the death knell for justice for victims of the Northern Ireland conflict. It is vital that MPs stand with victims and reject the Government’s move to legislate for impunity.”
Michael O’Hare, whose 12-year-old sister Majella O’Hare was shot dead by a British Army soldier in 1976 on her way to church in the Armagh village of Whitecross, is opposed to the Bill saying it – and the UK Government – is “adding to the trauma” that he and the other families who have lost loved ones are experiencing.
He said: “When you’ve lost a loved one, the pain lives with you every day.
“My sister was a child, a sweet innocent girl whose life potential was never realised because of bullets from a soldier’s machine gun.
“This Bill and Government are only adding to the trauma that I and others are experiencing. The past is ever-present, we need real truth and justice for our loved ones.
“I will never stop fighting for Majella. We will fight this bill. We call on MPs to stand with us."
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