PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have discussed Britain’s controversial Troubles legacy bill in a bi-lateral phone call.
The proposed bill seeks to limit prosecutions for crimes committed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles period.
But the British Government has continued with the proposal, and the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill was formally introduced into the House of Commons on May 16, 2022.
The Bill passed there on July 4, 2022, and will begin its Committee Stage hearing in the House of Lords today, Tuesday, January 24.
It was confirmed that current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar raised Ireland’s "concerns” about the Bill with Prime Minister Sunak during a formal phone call held between the pair yesterday afternoon.
“They discussed a range of issues including restoring the democratic Institutions in Northern Ireland, the ongoing EU-UK negotiations on the Protocol, and British-Irish relations more broadly,” a spokesperson for the Taoiseach’s office confirmed.
“Both recognised the importance of the ongoing engagement between the EU and the UK on the Protocol.
“The Taoiseach repeated the need for a solution which avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland and protects the integrity of the single market.
“They spoke about the positive cooperation between the EU, UK and US in responding to the war on Ukraine, and the Taoiseach recognised the UK’s leadership role on the matter.”
The spokesperson added: “The Taoiseach reiterated our concerns about the UK’s Legacy legislation and the impact of the proposed introduction of Electronic Travel Authorisation on third country nationals travelling across the border.”
The Prime Minister’s office also confirmed details of the meeting, stating: “The leaders reflected on the close relationship between the UK and Ireland, and the Prime Minister said it was clear both nations were highly aligned when it came to shared values and challenges.
“He pointed to cooperation on areas like research and development and offshore wind.”
They added: “The leaders discussed the invasion of Ukraine, and the Prime Minister updated on the UK’s plans to accelerate its support to help the country secure a lasting peace.”
Mr Sunak’s office further confirmed their discussions on the problematic Northern Ireland Protocol, but did not mention the Troubles legacy bill.
“They also discussed the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the need to find solutions to the problems being faced by communities in Northern Ireland,” the spokesperson said.
“Both leaders reflected on the need for Northern Ireland to have a power-sharing government up and running as soon as possible,” they added, before concluding: “The leaders agreed to stay in close touch.”
Last week, on January 17, the British government tabled a number of amendments to the Troubles legislation which will go before peers in the House of Lords today.
“The legislation aims to deliver better outcomes for those most impacted by the Troubles, including victims, survivors and veterans, while helping society to look forward,” they stated.
The government added that one of the amendments will “confirm that the Independent Commission for Reconciliation & Information Recovery (ICRIR) established by the legislation will be able to conduct criminal investigations where it judges that to be appropriate”.
Further amendments include ensuring that “individuals who knowingly or recklessly provide false information to the ICRIR can be prosecuted and have their immunity revoked” and that they will “increase the financial penalty for non-compliance with the Commission”.
Regarding the changes to the Bill, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris said: “These amendments reflect the extensive engagement that has taken place, and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to working with all interested parties regarding their concerns, and how these might be addressed.
“The Government remains absolutely committed to delivering better outcomes for those most impacted by the Troubles.”