Irish government urged to investigate Troubles’ killings in Republic
Dr Thomas Leahy, a British and Irish politics lecturer at Cardiff University, appeared before an Oireachtas committee.
The Irish Government has been urged to appoint a victims’ commissioner and set up a body to investigate Troubles-related killings in the Republic.
A senior researcher on the legacy of Northern Ireland’s Troubles said the Irish government should also establish a Victims Forum for victims and survivors.
Dr Thomas Leahy, a British and Irish politics lecturer at Cardiff University, appeared before an Oireachtas committee on Thursday.
He laid out a number of recommendations following his research into how the Irish government has dealt with Northern Ireland and the conflict legacy.
Looking forward to discussing my research on Ireland and dealing with conflict legacy at the Oireachtas Joint Committee On the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement today with Margaret Urwin @JFForgotten in Dublin @CardiffPolitics pic.twitter.com/VriQrffw3A— Thomas Leahy (@thomasdmleahy) June 20, 2019
Among those was for the Irish State to set up a mechanism similar to the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) in Northern Ireland.
He said that the research suggests that the Irish government has taken some steps towards dealing with conflict legacy since 1998, but added that more needs to be done to meet the needs of victims and survivors.
“Ireland has faced external challenges to progressing specific legacy cases,” he said.
“These include Brexit, the UK authorities’ lack of cooperation at times and the collapse of power-sharing in Northern Ireland.”
He urged the Irish government to assist victims and survivors in their search for justice, truth and closure, ensure public confidence in the Irish government and enhance British and Irish relations by co-operating on conflict legacy.
He added: “The Irish government should parallel the Historical Investigations Unit in Northern Ireland.
“Alternatively, they should create an oversight committee, body or appoint and reappoint a victims’ commissioner for the Republic of Ireland; create a Citizens Assembly or Victims Forum in Ireland to ensure maximum engagement with victims and survivors.”
He also recommended that the Irish government should hold an annual remembrance day related to the Troubles alongside the British and Northern Ireland authorities.
Margaret Urwin, of Justice for the Forgotten, said the campaign group has “consistently argued” that the Irish government’s failure to establish its own HIU or a similar body discriminates against families of victims in the Republic.
Speaking at the Oireachtas committee on the Good Friday Agreement, she said: “All victims of the conflict should be treated equally.”
She also said that Dr Leahy’s recommendation to reappoint a victims’ commissioner “would be a very positive move” as it would provide victims with an opportunity to discuss all issues of concern.
Dr Leahy told the committee that people in Great Britain have taken an interest in Northern Ireland’s conflict again because of Brexit.
“There’s an interest again in the Troubles and about affairs and relations between Ireland and the UK because of Brexit and I think there’s an opportunity there,” he said.
He also expressed concern about amnesty for British troops who served in Northern Ireland.
He said that none of the victims and survivors groups he spoke to supported this move.
He added that amnesty could “disempower” families and “re-traumatise” people.
“It’s not good that organisations who are supposed to abide by the rule of law can therefore have amnesties in place, it would set a precedent,” he added.
“If you start passing amnesties for some groups and not others you are going to end up with second-class victims and survivors and also a hierarchy of perpetrators.
“It’s important in public confidence and relations between these isles that there’s a whole process where victims have an opportunity to hold people to account if they wish to do so or at least find out the truth.”
He also said that providing services to support mental and physical health should be the “absolute priority” for both governments.