Sinn Féin slams 'cynical and cruel' Legacy Bill as it passes through parliament

Sinn Féin slams 'cynical and cruel' Legacy Bill as it passes through parliament

SINN FÉIN has called on the Irish Government to take legal action after the British Government's controversial Legacy Bill passed through parliament.

John Finucane, the party's MP for North Belfast, said the 'cynical and cruel' Bill was a denial of human rights.

He was speaking after the Bill passed a final debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday, despite several members voicing their reservations.

Nor was that the only opposition, with Mr Finucane saying the British Government was ignoring the will of victims, human rights experts and all the major parties in Northern Ireland.

'Ignored the voice of victims'

"The British government's flawed and irredeemable Legacy Bill has always only been about one thing — closing the door on families ever getting truth and justice," he said.

"The British government has forced this cynical and cruel legislation through and ignored the voices of victims, all political parties on this island, human rights experts, churches, the US, UN, EU and Irish Government.

"The British Labour party has also said it will repeal this legislation if they are in government after the next Westminster election.

"The British government has reneged on an international agreement to implement the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House by the two governments and political parties in 2014 in a human rights' compliant manner.

"The Irish government should now confront this denial of human rights and breach of international human rights law through an interstate case and international action against the British government."

The Legacy Bill seeks to do away with investigations and inquests into Troubles-era cases.

It will instead offer conditional immunity for those who cooperate with an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

Amendments proposed by the Lords had twice been rejected by the Commons, most recently last Wednesday when a recommendation to allow victims' families to have a say on immunity was defeated.

'A day of shame'

During Tuesday's motion proposed by Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Jonathan Caine to drop the Lords' amendments, several members expressed their view that the Bill was a mistake.

"Today is a terrible day for the people of the United Kingdom and for the rule of law in the United Kingdom. It is a day of shame," said Baroness Margaret Ritchie, the former SDLP leader.

"It is the day on which Parliament is legislating to remove from people across the UK who were victims of the Troubles access, in accordance with the rule of law and our international legal obligations, to criminal prosecutions, civil actions for damages for loss and injury caused, and to inquests."

Lord Paul Murphy, a former labour Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said: "All my experience of Northern Ireland over the years is that, where there is no support for a Bill such as this, from all communities in Northern Ireland, it will not work."

Meanwhile, Lord Robin Eames, the former Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, said the victims were being disregarded.

"The feeling of sadness which overwhelms me is based on my many years of service to victims — to the men, women and children who were the real sufferers of our Troubles," he said.

"I cannot get them out of my mind at this moment: the funerals, the addresses at funerals, the comfort in the hospital ward or beside a bedside."

He added: "I say to the Government: surely, they have brought us not to a crossroads but to the edge of a cliff, and Northern Ireland is tottering at the edge."