London's "New" Proposals on Legacy Fall Far Short

The PFC rejects London's latest legacy proposals and calls for implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

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Today’s British government plan for dealing with the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland has at least indicated an understanding of why the ‘blanket amnesty’ proposed last July (which would have blocked any legal redress for bereaved families, irrespective of the perpetrator) has failed to gain any political or civil support.

The plan, however (for a ‘conditional immunity’ i.e. immunity from prosecution if the individual ‘co-operates’ with a newly formed ‘Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery’) has clearly been designed with only one aim in mind.

It is not designed to serve the needs of victims or survivors.

It is aimed solely at protecting state actors from prosecution who were involved in conflict-related deaths.

The original ‘blanket amnesty’ was rejected, even by British ex-soldiers, who refused to accept any equivalence with paramilitaries.

This new system, however, would potentially allow a state actor (soldier/policeman/intelligence agent) responsible for causing a death, merely to reiterate whatever statement they made at the time - usually an attempt to justify their actions. There would be no scrutiny of those claims.

Without a robust investigation, other evidence would not be produced. Statements would remain unchallenged and untested. Families of the dead and injured left without answers.

This is completely unacceptable to a majority of bereaved families we represent.

The erroneous narrative that the ‘vast majority of deaths involving the state were justified’, as stated in the British’s government’s Command Paper last year, would stand.

There are no details on whether the British government plans to establish a new investigative body for cases where individuals don’t come forward. Or what would happen if a family rejects a self-serving ‘co-operative’ statement.

What is clear is that today’s proposals are vague and will only serve perpetrators of violence - not their victims. The PFC and JFF will continue to lobby and advocate on behalf of victims and survivors for a Historical Investigations Unit as proposed in the Stormont House Agreement.

We believe that there is not only a legal but a moral imperative to put such a unit in place.