Troubles victims unite in opposition to Government legacy proposals

Troubles victims unite in opposition to Government legacy proposals

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord condemned the plans (Rebecca Black/PA)

Troubles victims from across the divide have united to galvanise opposition to the UK Government’s proposals to deal with the past.

Raymond McCord, whose son was killed by loyalists, said they are confident they have the support of Irish politicians and are lobbying the US administration.

In September they are to stage a protest outside Westminster.

Mr McCord was speaking at a gathering in Belfast attended by DUP MP Jim Shannon, SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly and Alliance MP Stephen Farry.

Raymond McCord and Julie Hambleton (Rebecca Black/PA)

It comes after Secretary of State Brandon Lewis last month unveiled proposals which include a statute of limitation on Troubles prosecutions.

Among the victims to express opposition were Julie Hambleton, whose sister was killed in the IRA’s Birmingham pub bombings, Cathy McIlvenny, whose sister and nephew were killed by loyalists, Michael Gallagher, whose son was killed in the Real IRA’s Omagh bomb, Eugene Reavey, whose three brothers were killed by loyalists, and Billy McManus whose father was killed in the loyalist attack on Sean Graham bookmakers.

At the meeting in north Belfast on Thursday, Mr McCord said they “totally reject” the proposals, adding there can be “no amnesties for those who committed murders, were involved in murders or terrorist actions”.

He also accused the UK Government of “attempting to dismantle the justice system” with the proposals to end Troubles-era inquests and investigations.

“It suppresses truth and justice, is an insult to the memories of those murdered, and is the ultimate betrayal of victims,” he said.

Ms Hambleton described the proposals as “obscene”.

“Believe this Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis, we’re coming for you,” she said.

“As long as I have breath in me and the other families, there is no way on God’s green earth will we sit back and allow any government to implement a piece of legislation that completely wipes away any memory of any of our loved ones.

“Who wants to live in a country where they allow mass murderers to continue to have their liberty and never be prosecuted for killing innocents?”

Ms McIlvenny said her family have been left feeling that perpetrators are treated better than the victims.

Mr McManus said the proposals if implemented will destroy families who hope for justice for their loved ones.

“To know that there will no chance of justice or truth or someone being brought to court, I think the British Government will be the laughing stock of the political world, it is an absolute disgrace,” he said.

Eugene Reavey (Rebecca Black/PA)

Mr Reavey described how in south Armagh his family were mocked for not joining the IRA after his brothers were killed, and instead pursued the legal route to justice.

“I feel badly let down because after all the years we have been at this and tried to be as dignified as possible … so I’m the laughing stock of south Armagh at the moment, people telling me after all these years of being the righteous man, you’ve been let down,” he said.

“Here we are, kicked in the teeth again, we are all in the same boat, and I don’t think we should have to feel this way.”

Mr Gallagher said that where people do wrong, whether in police or armed forces uniform, they are “criminals in uniform”.

Michael Gallagher (Rebecca Black/PA)

“The vast majority of police and soldiers in this country did their duty and did it properly but there are a few and those few need to be addressed,” he said.

He said he is in a good position after a High Court judge recently recommended that the UK Government undertake a human rights compliant investigation into the atrocity, but said he wants to show solidarity with all victims.

“Murder is murder, nobody is saying Jack the Ripper should get a pardon, it’s never been heard of,” he added.

“We just want to be treated the same as somebody who lives anywhere else in Britain and any other crime committed against us.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Shannon, Mr Farry and Ms Kelly pledged to support the victims in their opposition to the legacy proposals.

“We stand together as political parties in our support of them in their rejection of them,” Ms Kelly said.

Mr Farry said: “There is cross-community opposition to this legislation … and our three parties who have MPs are going to fight this tooth and nail, to the very end.”

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