Relatives of two Troubles’ victims say UK Government plans are unlawful
Relatives of two victims killed during the Troubles have spoken about backing a legal challenge against controversial Government plans to tackle legacy issues.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis was criticised by many victims’ groups in July when he announced plans to introduce a statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998, including for soldiers and paramilitaries.
It’s expected the bill may be introduced at the start of next month.
Two families are now seeking an advisory judgment from Belfast High Court, that would claim the proposals are unconstitutional and unlawful.
It’s hoped this can be delivered before the bill is introduced and will properly inform any parliamentary debate.
Speaking at the office of legal firm Harte Coyle Collins in Belfast on Tuesday was Patricia Burns, her daughter Alana Thompson, and Daniel McCready.
Ms Burns’ father Thomas Burns was shot by the Army as he left the Glenpark Social club in north Belfast on July 12, 1972.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General has denied a request for a fresh inquest, despite admitting the original inquest was wrong in fact and law.
As an ex-serviceman, Mr Burns had served in the Royal Navy for 10 years before returning to Belfast to live with his wife and four children.
Mr McCready’s uncle Jim McCann was one of six men known as the New Lodge Six believed to have been killed by the Army in 1973.
All six were unarmed at the time but the Army had initially stated they had been shot during a gun battle.
In February this year the Attorney General granted a fresh inquest, but no date has been set.
Speaking about the latest legal challenge, Ms Burns said the legacy proposals would take away everything the family had fought for over the last 50 years.
“It will put a halt to all the inquests, civil cases, everything. We’ve come too far and fought for too long that we can’t just stand by and let that happen,” she said.
“Our family was torn apart when my daddy was killed. We suffered year after year under the cloud that he was put into the media as a gunman which he wasn’t,” she said.
“His life is important to us and we can’t just sit back and say it doesn’t matter about an inquest for him, it doesn’t matter about the truth.”
Her daughter, Ms Thompson said: “It means a lot to me. I feel like my whole childhood has been affected by this as well.
“Always watching my mummy fight for this and campaigning. We’ve always seen a glimmer of hope at the end of it, that we will get an inquest and there will be truth.
“Now it just feels like there’s no hope at all if this goes through. So I think it will have a really bad impact on our family.”
On calls from the Government to draw a line under Troubles prosecutions, she added: "They have everything to gain from it and we have everything to lose so it's only benefiting them."
Mr McCready said he was still driven by a desire to get justice for the New Lodge Six.
“They were all innocent people, they all went out on a Saturday night. One of them was just there to help other people and he was shot.
“You can’t let people away with that. These were just young kids… they could have come from any district.”
Mary McCallan from Relatives for Justice said: “This is such a major issue and has such fundamental importance to the families as well as our legal system and how we effectively operate as a rule of law.
“It seems like a necessity for the courts to act at this point rather than to wait on the legislation being passed.”