Legacy Bill: Sinn Féin slams Defence Secretary for dubbing Troubles inquests a 'merry-go-round'

Legacy Bill: Sinn Féin slams Defence Secretary for dubbing Troubles inquests a 'merry-go-round'

SINN FÉIN MLA Gerry Kelly has said comments from British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Troubles inquests that his government's Legacy Bill seeks to address are 'arrogant' and 'callous'.

Speaking in Belfast today, Mr Wallace described court cases relating to Troubles-era issues as 'a merry-go-round'.

Mr Kelly, the MLA for North Belfast, said the Defence Secretary's words were 'insulting and disrespectful' to the families of those killed in the Troubles, who continue to seek answers.

He added that the Legacy Bill would provide amnesty to members of the British armed forces who had 'killed Irish citizens'.

'Draw a line'

Victims' groups have reportedly expressed their concerns over the Bill.

However, speaking during a visit to Harland and Wolff in Belfast today, Mr Wallace said he didn't believe the current system benefitted those affected.

"I understand the sense of loss many victims have held," he said, reports the Independent.

"But it is also important that we stop what has become a merry-go-round of legacy inquests, and constant re-openings and retrials that don't actually seem to serve the peace process well.

"It doesn't help either the victims that I have seen or indeed many of the people accused, I think it’s really important we do our best to draw a line under it."

Mr Wallace added that terrorist organisations accounted for most Troubles fatalities but that their victims did not receive justice.

He also revealed his frustration at seeing IRA prisoners being released under the Good Friday Agreement.

'Arrogant and callous'

Criticising the comments, Mr Kelly said the Legacy Bill was Britain's latest attempt to deny justice to victims.

"Comments by the British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that the British Government's flawed Legacy Bill will end a 'merry-go-round of legacy inquests' are insulting and disrespectful to the families of victims of the conflict who have waited decades for truth and justice," said Mr Kelly.

"His comments are arrogant, callous and completely unacceptable.

"Access to the courts and to due process is a human right.

"After decades of cover-up and obstruction by the British State, the Tory government's Legacy Bill is now attempting to pull down the shutters on the efforts of families of victims to achieve truth and justice through the courts.

"And it will give an amnesty to British state forces who killed Irish citizens.

"Amendments to the Bill proposed by the British Government do not deal with the substantive issue of victims being entitled to access to due process.

"In fact, this legislation is about denying victims access to the coroner's courts, independent investigations of the killings of their loved ones and the ability to take civil cases."

The British Government says the Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, seeks to deliver better outcomes for those most impacted by the Troubles, including victims, survivors and veterans.

It would offer conditional immunity for those who cooperate with a proposed Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

A November 2022 report from the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights urged Britain to ditch the Bill, saying it 'raises a number of serious issues of compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights'.