Boris Johnson has been warned that his proposals for a so-called amnesty in Northern Ireland risks creating a “new Troubles”, with fears over “revenge attacks”.
Campaigners from all sides of the Troubles divide presented a letter at 10 Downing Street to the Prime Minister, branding plans for a statute of limitations as “immoral”.
In the letter, the eight cross-community signatories said they were “totally opposed to any form of amnesty given to these murderers irrespective of who they are” and accused ministers of wanting to use the change to cover-up Britain’s role during the Troubles.
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 Mr Johnson has previously 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.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister was killed in the IRA’s Birmingham pub bombings, said the Prime Minister risked sparking a new chapter of violence.
Speaking outside Downing Street on Monday, Ms Hambleton, who founded the Birmingham bombings campaign group Justice for the 21, told PA news agency the Government’s intentions were “utter madness”.
She added: “We’ve heard whispers that this could create a new Troubles, because if the Government isn’t prepared to keep the legislation that is already in place for murderers, then they will seek to get their own revenge.
“I think there could be revenge attacks. There could be vigilantes.”
Part of the push for a statute of limitations is a bid to prevent British Army veterans who served during the Troubles from being dragged before the courts decades later.
But Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jr was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, said being a member of the armed forces should not exempt those who committed crimes in Northern Ireland from facing the consequences.
He told PA: “All soldiers weren’t bad soldiers but for the soldiers who broke the law, the uniform can’t save them.
“All murders have to be investigated.
“The British Government is saying: ‘If they are soldiers or informers, don’t investigate that, do everything you can to stop that coming to court’. That’s what is happening.
“If they can go after war criminals, why can’t they go after the terrorists who carried out the murders in Northern Ireland? What is it that they are so frightened of?”
Mr Raymond, who handed the letter into Downing Street officials, said the Government’s proposals were akin to suggesting “that murder is not a crime”.
“One of the ladies here today, her sister was raped and murdered and then thrown into a river by paramilitaries within our own community,” he added.
“And Boris Johnson is saying, by giving them an amnesty and not investigating it, that it will help her to move on.
“Who on earth would believe that? Maybe it is time the Prime Minister sees a doctor – a psychiatrist.”
Along with Ms Hambleton and Mr McCord, the other signatories of the letter included 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 in Belfast in 1992.
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