Dublin has 'no choice' but to take legal action over UK's amnesty law

Dublin says it has ‘no choice’ but to take legal action over UK’s Northern Ireland amnesty law – as British government slams the move as ‘unnecessary’

  • Irish premier Leo Varadkar said his government was left with ‘no option’
  • The Legacy Act offers conditional amnesties for Troubles-era crimes 

The Irish government says it has ‘no choice’ but to take legal action against the UK’s Northern Ireland amnesty law to offer immunity for Troubles-era crimes. 

The new Troubles Legacy Act became law in September and gives conditional amnesties to former soldiers and militants involved in decades of violence.

Britain has halted prosecutions of those involved in three decades of bloody conflict, saying they are unlikely to succeed and an independent body should be set up instead.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said his government was left with ‘no option’ but to legally challenge the UK Government over the Legacy Act, saying the ‘strong’ legal advice was that it breached the UN Convention on Human Rights.

In a statement, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris slammed the case as ‘unnecessary’ and warned it came at a ‘particularly sensitive time in Northern Ireland’. 

Irish premier Leo Varadkar (pictured) said his government was left with ‘no option’ but to legally challenge the UK Government over the Legacy Act

Royal Ulster Constabulary Police officers standing on Market Street at the scene of a car bombing in the centre of Omagh in 1998

‘It did not need to be taken now, given the issues are already before the UK courts,’ Mr Heaton-Harris said. 

The Act received royal assent in September despite widespread opposition from political parties, victims’ organisations in Northern Ireland and the Irish government.

READ MORE:  Controversial law that aims to stop prosecutions linked to Troubles in Northern Ireland could face a judicial review amid outrage from terror attack survivors and families of victims

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the controversial legislation in an interview with BBC Northern Ireland that month.

Accepting the new law was ‘uncomfortable and difficult for many people’, he said: ‘I don’t think anyone thought the previous system was working well for anybody so we have tried to put in place a system which is better, which will get people the information they need and the justice they deserve while keeping in compliance with our international obligations.

‘I appreciate the strength of feeling as these are very difficult choices and are uncomfortable choices but we are trying to make the situation better than it was.’

Ireland’s deputy premier and foreign affairs minister Micheal Martin said they were taking the case reluctantly after having spent time trying to change the UK Government’s mind.

Amnesty International praised the Irish government as ‘doing the right thing’ for victims of Northern Ireland’s Troubles by ‘taking a stand’.

The Irish government is to argue that the provisions of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 are incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

ecurity experts examine the charred remains of the vehicle thought to have contained the bomb which exploded in Omagh’s shopping area

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously defended the controversial new law saying it was ‘better’ than the previous system

A soldier guards the scene of the bombing in Omagh’s shopping area in Northern Ireland in August 1998

British troops with their armored personnel carriers surround a blazing barricade near the Andersonstown Police Station in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1979

Chief Minister for the Northern Ireland Assembly David Trimble (third from the left) walks with delegates among in the street of the northern Irish town of Omagh in 1998, two days after a car bomb explosion which killed 28 and injured hundreds

Aspects of the laws include a limited form of immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences for those who co-operate with the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR). 

The new Act will also halt future civil cases and legacy inquests.

Multiple Troubles victims and family members are supporting a legal challenge against aspects of the Act at Belfast High Court.

The UK Government also said it was prepared for the move by the Irish government, and would ‘robustly defend the legislation’.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said: ‘The government took a decision that we will take an interstate case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, seeking a judicial review of the UK Legacy Act.

‘The attorney general’s advice on this is very strong, his advice is that the UK Legacy Act is in breach of the UN Convention on Human Rights. It’s also the view of the UN high commissioner and also the Council of Europe.

‘It is something that we’re genuinely doing with a sense of regret, and would prefer not to be in this position, but we did make a commitment to survivors in Northern Ireland and to the families of victims that we would stand by them, respect their wishes and also stand by the Good Friday Agreement, which specifically references the European Convention on Human Rights.’

A peace mural is seen in a loyalist area in April this year in Belfast. The Good Friday Agreement, signed on April 10, 1998, ended most of the violence during the decades-long conflict known as The Troubles

he Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris (pictured) slammed the case as ‘unnecessary’ and warned it came at a ‘particularly sensitive time in Northern Ireland’

The Taoiseach added that the Stormont House Agreement had received consensus from both governments and parties in Northern Ireland.

He said: ‘The UK Government decided for their own reasons, and of course they have the right to do this, to go down a different path, which is the UK legacy legislation, which is now law.

‘But we don’t agree with that, we think that the agreement agreed by the parties in Northern Ireland, the two governments is the better approach and we think at this stage we really have no option but to ask the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to carry out a judicial review of this legislation.’

Around 3,600 people died in three decades of confrontation between Irish nationalist militants seeking a united Ireland, pro-British ‘loyalist’ paramilitaries and the British military. The conflict largely ended with a 1998 peace deal. 

Source: Read Full Article