UK Government ‘wilfully ignoring’ voice of victims – Michelle O’Neill

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The UK Government has been accused of “wilfully ignoring” the voice of victims in their proposals for dealing with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill voiced her concern amid universal opposition to the plans across the political divide in the region.

In July, the Government published a command paper outlining its intention to prohibit future prosecutions of military veterans and ex-paramilitaries for Troubles incidents pre-dating April 1998.

Contending the criminal justice route was not delivering for victims, the command paper said a move to a new truth recovery model would help bereaved families gain information about the deaths of their loved ones.

Brandon Lewis
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Steve Parsons/PA)

The proposals are opposed by all the main parties at Stormont, the Irish government and many victims groups.

“These proposals, if legislated for, signal an intent to close down legal avenues to justice and they are a real affront to all victims and survivors,” Ms O’Neill told MLAs during Executive Office questions.

“Denying the truth and justice to families is the desired intent of these proposals, and the British Government’s proposals are a major unilateral departure from the Stormont House Agreement and are worse than the mechanisms deployed by Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile.

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Without further delay, this British Government should and must withdraw these amnesty proposals and implement the Stormont House Agreement in a human rights compliant manner and I will continue to make this point directly to Brandon Lewis.”

SDLP MLA Dolore Kelly asked Ms O’Neill what commitment has been given by terrorist organisations in “giving truth, justice and accountability” to their victims.

The Sinn Fein vice president responded: “I think we all have a role to play in terms of providing our own political leadership to make sure we heal the wounds of the past, to understand we are dealing with a society where there has been hurt caused to many many people… I think there is an onus on all of us in political leadership to work together to heal the wounds of the past, to properly deal with the past, and if the British Government think that by pushing it under the carpet that it’s going to go away, that is not the case.”

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