Representatives from all of the major political parties north and south are to meet with families of Troubles victims in opposition to UK Government proposals to introduce an “amnesty” for legacy killings.
A delegation of Irish TDs and senators as well as members of the DUP, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance will meet with a cross-community group of victims’ campaigners on Monday.
Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jr was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, said the proposals would remove “the basic human rights of families and the victims themselves”.
Mr McCord said: “Every time I go up to my son’s grave to lay flowers I say ‘We’re going to get justice, we’re going to get justice’.
“The British Government are turning around and saying ‘You’re never going to get justice’. That’s the message you take to the grave.”
He has called on Taoiseach Micheal Martin to meet with victims’ groups and to raise the issue in the European Parliament and with the US government.
In July, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis announced plans for a statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.
The proposals, which Boris Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles”, would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.
Mr McCord said it was “unheard of” for political parties across the island of Ireland to unite on a single issue in this way.
He told the PA news agency: “In my lifetime, I can never remember politicians from Northern Ireland and the Republic, the main parties all getting together, to support one issue.
“Northern Ireland is 100 years old this year, people are talking about a centenary. 100 years later, politicians from both sides of the border unite with victims to take on the British government. You couldn’t make it up.”
Raymond McCord Jr was 22 when he was beaten to death and his body dumped in a quarry, in an attack carried out by the UVF.
Mr McCord, himself from a unionist background, said the UK Government’s proposals “are taking away hope” from families that they can get justice for their loved ones.
He said: “The pathetic excuse that they give was that it would help families move on. I haven’t heard one family say that.”
He added: “If somebody walks into a police station and admits to murder, they’ll be told to go on home, because it’s no longer a crime.”
He said it was an insult to victims’ families, many of whom have campaigned for decades for the truth about their loved ones, to be told this would help them “move on”.
“My son will be dead 24 years this November. It was proven in a police Ombudsman’s report that there was collusion between the RUC special branch and the UVF,” he said.
“It was accepted by the British government, but we’ve never had an inquest. We’ve been fighting for almost 24 years to get it.”
He added: “Murderers can sit down and have peace of mind that no matter how many murders they carried out, whether it was man, woman or child, they don’t need to worry about it.”
Mr McCord added that he believes the true motivation behind the “amnesty” is to cover up collusion between the British state and paramilitary groups.
“They talk about the dirty war, it was stinking,” he said.
“This is how they keep a lid on everything. Stop everything. No prosecutions, no inquests, no civil actions. I don’t know if any other country in a democratic society has ever done that.
“We believe it’s against the law.”
Mr McCord will be joined at the meeting by 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.
They will meet Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly, Labour TD Brendan Howlin, Fine Gael TD Emer Currie, Green Party TD Patrick Costello, Fianna Fail TD James Lawless and independent Senator Victor Boyhan, as well as representatives from the DUP, Sinn Fein, Alliance and the SDLP.
Senator Daly said: “I have spoken to members of the United States Congress and Irish MEPs, and have asked them to use all avenues available to them to raise the concerns that we share on this proposed amnesty by the British Government.”
A UK Government spokesman said the planned statute of limitations does “not propose the prohibition of investigations into Troubles-related incidents”.
They added: “We recognise that access to information and accountability, via a thorough and robust investigative process, is absolutely vital to victims and survivors, and their families.
“That is why obtaining information, supported by full disclosure by the State, is the cornerstone of the proposals the UK Government has put forward.
“Under these proposals, an independent recovery body would support victims and survivors as they navigate the information recovery process, with specially trained family liaison officers providing a single point of contact to support individuals or families throughout the process.
“The current system for addressing the past is not working well for anybody; most importantly victims and survivors.
“It is delivering neither justice nor information to the vast majority of families.
“With the passage of time, the realistic prospect of securing prosecutions becomes vanishingly smaller.
“If our focus remains on criminal justice, we will fail almost every family. While this is a painful reality, to suggest otherwise does a disservice to victims and their families.”
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