Belfast rally hears calls for UK government's legacy Bill to be scrapped

The protest was timed to coincide the legislation returning to the UK's House of Lords
Belfast rally hears calls for UK government's legacy Bill to be scrapped

Claudia Savage and Jonathan McCambridge, PA

A number of families bereaved during the Troubles have gathered in Belfast to demand the scrapping of the UK government’s contentious plan to deal with the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The protest took place outside the Northern Ireland Office building in the city centre to coincide with the next stage of the controversial legislation passing through the UK's House of Lords.

A number of those in attendance lost loved ones in killings involving state forces.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill has already been through the UK's House of Commons and is being considered by peers.

It proposes a form of amnesty for perpetrators of Troubles crimes in exchange for co-operation with a new truth recovery body.


The Bill, if enacted, would also end inquests and civil proceedings related to the conflict.

The changes are opposed by political parties and victims’ groups in Northern Ireland, as well as the Irish Government.

Several dozen people attended the protest carrying banners and placards demanding truth and justice for loved ones.

Ciaran MacAirt, spokesperson for the Time for Truth Campaign, said: “This Bill of shame is an attack on our basic human rights by a human rights abuser.

“Britain seeks to block our equal access to due process of the law enjoyed by British citizens. The reason is simple: Britain wants to bury its war crimes in Ireland.

“All political parties on this island, the Irish Government, and key human rights stakeholders reject this Bill of shame.

“Significantly, leading political figures in the United States and the EU reject it too.”

He added: “We demand the human rights compliant implementation of the Stormont House Agreement which was agreed by political parties and the Irish and British governments in 2014.”

“Any approach to the legacy of the conflict on these islands must be human rights compliant, it must uphold the rights of victims, and it must uphold the rule of law.”

Speaking at the rally was Nicole McKeown, whose grandfather Frankie McKeown was killed 50 years ago by the British Army in Belfast.

She said: “This Bill is about the British Cabinet denying us our basic legal rights and as such represents a full-frontal assault on basic legal process and the administration of justice.

“This Bill will in law deny any family their legal right to an investigation in line with human rights law, or an inquest, public inquiry, or ability to pursue a civil action.”

She added: “Let’s be clear, this Bill is unworkable, it will not deliver for victims and survivors, it is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and that it is incompatible with international human rights obligations.”

Earlier this year, the British government tabled amendments to the controversial legislation in an attempt to address concerns raised by victims.

One of the changes proposed would see the proposed new truth recovery body able to conduct criminal investigations “where it judges that to be appropriate”.

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