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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

Joint Oireachtas Good Friday Committee to UK Gov: Withdraw Legacy Bill

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane echoes call to scrap UK Gov plan to deny truth and justice

The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement chaired by Deputy Fergus O'Dowd TD has called on the Government of the United Kingdom to withdraw the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

The Bill would end inquests, Police Ombudsman investigations, civil cases, and police investigations into crimes committed as part of the Troubles. In doing so, the Legacy Bill would remove vital avenues to the truth for the countless families in Northern Ireland who are grappling with the painful legacy of the Troubles.

Speaking on behalf of the Committee, Deputy O'Dowd said: "Since the Bill was first announced, the Committee has met with many victims and their families. We have witnessed their anguish at the prospect of losing vital opportunities to find out the truth of what happened to their loved ones and hold perpetrators to account. This Bill risks traumatising these victims once more."

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane echoed this call and has again called on the British Government to scrap its flawed Legacy Bill and end its efforts to deny truth and justice.

The North Belfast MP was speaking after the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Committee today called on the British Government to withdraw the legislation.

John Finucane said, “It is welcome that the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Committee has today called on the British Government to withdraw its Legacy Bill.

“This call, and the concerns raised, is echoed by victims and families, human rights experts, the UN, all the political parties on this island, as well as officials in the US and EU.

“We have consistently said that this legislation is flawed and is a cynical attempt to shut the door on victims and families’ efforts to achieve truth and justice.

“I would again urge the Taoiseach to meet with victims’ groups to discuss their concerns about this shameful legacy bill and their continued campaigns for truth and justice.

“The British Government should scrap this legislation and get on with implementing the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House by the two governments and political parties in 2014 in a human rights' compliant manner.”

You can learn more about the members of the Joint Committee here.

Their statement continues: "The Bill flies in the face of the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. It is considered unacceptable by every political party in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It has also been criticised by the overwhelming majority of victims’ representative organisations, by civil society, church leaders, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council of Europe, as well as Westminster’s Joint Committee on Human Rights."

"The Committee emphasises that the Bill is a unilateral move away from the 2014 Stormont House Agreement in which parties in Northern Ireland, together with the British and Irish governments, decided on mechanisms to better assist these families, and to pursue justice. That agreement was endorsed again by both governments, in the 2015 Fresh Start and the 2020 New Decade, New Approach deals."

"The Committee has sought to communicate its grave concerns at this proposal throughout the legislative process. While we welcome engagement with the Committee by Lord Caine and others, we are disappointed that our concerns and those of victims have not been addressed. The Committee calls on the British Government to withdraw the Legacy Bill. If the Bill is enacted, the Committee will ask the Irish Government to consider interstate litigation in the European Court of Human Rights. This course of action would demonstrate tangible support and solidarity with victims' campaigners by sparing them the costly and arduous task of bringing individual cases to challenge the Bill."

"This year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement was an extraordinary achievement of the UK and Irish Governments. The result of the Agreement – peace in Northern Ireland – was painstakingly achieved and must be protected. The work of reconciliation remains incomplete and could be undermined by the proposals in this Bill.

"The Committee calls on the UK Government to engage with the Irish Government in a spirit of partnership to find a way forward. The Governments must work together urgently to strengthen reconciliation in Northern Ireland and fulfill their shared obligations as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement."

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