Tory peer whose wife was left paralysed after Brighton bomb gives reluctant backing to No. 10’s legacy plans
Conservative peer Lord Tebbit, who was seriously injured along with his late wife in the 1984 IRA Brighton bombing, has said he reluctantly backs the Government’s legacy proposals.
Lord Tebbit said that while he sympathises with victims seeking justice, any prospect of IRA terrorists being brought to justice had been effectively dispensed with in the 1990s.
He stressed the problems with legacy stemmed from former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government, which rubber-stamped the early release of republican terrorists to secure the Good Friday Agreement.
“It’s not a good decision, but it’s the best decision that could be made,” Lord Tebbit told the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday.
His comments follow widespread criticism of the proposals to end all Troubles-related prosecutions.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis announced on Wednesday that he intended to introduce a statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for incidents up to April 1998.
This mechanism will apply to military veterans and former paramilitaries.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the move would enable Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles”.
“We are finally bringing forward a solution to this problem... to enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward,” he told MPs.
The plans would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the Troubles.
But they have prompted victims’ groups and political parties to accuse the Government of attempting to legislate a de facto amnesty across the board, one which shields veterans, former members of the security forces and terrorists.
Cross-community victims’ group Wave said that “victims and survivors should not be treated this way”.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the issue would be discussed with Mr Lewis at a meeting of the Stormont Party Leaders’ Forum later on Friday.
The SDLP has called for the recall of the Assembly from its summer recess to address the controversy.
Five people were killed and 31 injured in Brighton when a bomb planted to target the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ripped through the seafront Grand Hotel during the 1984 Conservative Party conference.
Lady Margaret Tebbit, who was left paralysed after the attack, passed away last December aged 86.
Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit said he felt the Troubles victims’ pain and desire for justice.
“I can understand it every time I get out of bed and feel the impact of my own injuries,” he explained.
“My wife died last December. Her life was not only damaged so badly by the IRA, but she also suffered with Lewy body dementia.”
At the time of his wife’s death, Lord Tebbit told this newspaper that she never forgave the bombers for what they had done.
Lady Tebbit spent two years undergoing treatment for severe spinal injuries. While she recovered some use in her arms and hands, she had to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
She also suffered from bouts of acute depression but, according to her husband, retained a strong sense of character and had such resilience that she never let anything defeat her.
“I’m glad to say that she never forgave those who blew up the Grand Hotel,” Lord Tebbit said.
“We all know it’s a Christian duty to forgive, but not those who will not repent. Of course, the people who did this have never repented. They were joyful about what they had done.”
Belfast IRA man Patrick Magee was convicted of planting the bomb and given eight life sentences at the Old Bailey in 1986, with a recommendation that he spend at least 35 years in jail.
He was released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Lord Tebbit, who previously described the prosecution of former soldiers as “unfair”, welcomed the Government’s proposals for veterans.
“I wanted to see the IRA terrorists prosecuted and imprisoned, of course,” he said.
“But that opportunity was pretty well destroyed by Blair’s decision to give out so many get-out-of-jail-free cards.”
Following requests from Sinn Fein during peace talks, the Blair government sent approximately 200 ‘on the run’ letters to republicans, assuring them that they were not being pursued by the UK authorities
After an inquiry that lasted almost a year, the House of Commons’ Northern Ireland Affairs Committee found the letters were “questionably unlawful”
Lord Tebbit said he has “despised” the scheme for a “long time”, adding: “What was done then prevented true justice being meted out on all sides.
“I think the last chance for gaining justice for all sides was thrown away when Blair gave in to the IRA and gave so many of them protection from prosecution.”