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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

Legacy "Bill of Shame" makes its way to final reading in House of Lords committee

The British government's Legacy Bill will have its final committee reading in the House of Lords on Thursday evening. It is the last step before the bill is brought to the full House of Lords for consideration.

British Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris claims that there are many "significant changes" coming to the Bill as calls for its scrapping continue to grow. The BBC reported that the British government has appointed former Northern Ireland Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan to head the new troubles legacy body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR). The appointment comes before the legislation has passed.

Relatives for Justice called the development "hugely disappointing," adding that naming a "judicial appointment before the legislation is even finalised or passed tells us that chat about “significant amendments” is distraction and nonsense. Other than the Tories in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), Declan Morgan must be the only person on this island who thinks this is a good idea."

Amnesty International's Grainne Teggart said, "This bill cannot be fixed. The only action from the UK Government that would be game changing is to scrap the bill entirely and put victims at the centre of the legacy processes.”

The Pat Finucane Center, a non-party political, anti-sectarian human rights group advocating a non-violent resolution of the conflict on the island of Ireland said, "The ICRIR is totally opposed by a majority of victims and survivors, political parties, the Irish Government, the British Labour Party, and international Human Rights organizations."

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has said the NIO and British government have shown a blatant disregard to victims and their families.

The North Belfast MLA was speaking after the NIO advertised for a commissioner to oversee conflict related reviews proposed in the British government’s flawed Legacy Bill. “The decision to advertise for a commissioner to oversee conflict related reviews proposed in the British government’s flawed Legacy Bill is atrocious and shows a blatant disregard for victims and their families and their right to access truth and justice. “The Legacy Bill is unworkable and does not enjoy the support of victims and survivors, the Irish government, human rights experts, leading international lawyers from across Europe, the US and South Africa and none of the political parties on this island. “It is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and it is incompatible with international human rights obligations. “This legislation is about; amnesties for British state forces; denying investigation; avoiding accountability and cover-up and shutting down families from ever getting truth and justice. “The legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in 2014 need to be implemented in a human rights' compliant manner. “The British government should scrap their flawed Legacy Bill without delay.”

Recently, the United States Senate foreign relations committee passed a resolution with bipartisan support calling for continuing attention and action to "resolve the injustices of past violence, including violence by state and nonstate actors; observes that victims, survivors, and family members of victims of Troubles-era violence must be able to fully pursue justice..." Sen. Res 157 has moved out of committee and to the whole Senate for consideration. You can learn more about that resolution here.

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