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Mixed response to report on dealing with Northern Ireland legacy issues

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Report: Professor Kieran McEvoy

Report: Professor Kieran McEvoy

Report: Professor Kieran McEvoy

There has been a mixed reaction to a new report into the handling of legacy issues published by Queen's University and the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ).

The document is highly critical of the Government's proposal to end repeat investigations into Troubles cases and deliver on a promise to protect former soldiers from "vexatious claims".

The group of academics from Queen's and human rights activists claim the Government proposals are incompatible with the European Convention on Human rights and the Good Friday Agreement. Professor Kieran McEvoy from the School of Law at Queen's University led the team behind the report.

"The latest Government statement appears to envisage the abandonment of the structures proposed in the Stormont House Agreement in favour of a process wherein the bulk of outstanding conflict investigations would be 'fast-tracked'," he said. "It is difficult to see how this could allow for an effective investigation.

"It is clear that a driving influence on the UK Government's approach has been a desire to ensure soldiers do not go to prison for conflict-related offences."

QUB Law Professor Louise Mallinder said the CAJ report offers a new proposal on sentencing.

"Bearing in mind the Government's clear determination to keep soldiers out of prison, we have reviewed a number of options which would see the Stormont House Agreement implemented in full - but where the current two-year sentence before being considered for early release could be reduced to zero," she said.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the new Government proposals had been a much needed fresh approach.

"The Stormont House Agreement legacy proposals lack the support of many innocent victims," he said.

"It is vital that justice and truth are not denied to those innocent victims and that there is no provision to re-write the past."

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie said the time for victims being ignored by the Stormont House Agreement was over. "Innocent victims have been let down time and again by legacy arrangements," he said.

"Now we have a group of self-appointed experts with proposals to reduce the tariff on Troubles-related convictions to a zero term sentence.

"It would neatly fit the agenda of those who want to rewrite the history of the Troubles," he added.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly welcomed the new report.

"The analysis of the options is timely, given the significant shift in the British Government's position last month, where they unilaterally attempted to reconstruct and rewrite the Stormont House Agreement," he said.

"Any cherry picking or attempted solo run by the British Government is unlikely to secure the support or agreement of the other parties."

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly MLA has said the report was a robust rejection of the Government narrative of a witch-hunt against former soldiers.

"It is clear that the Government's latest legacy proposals are motivated by a political desire to shield former soldiers," Ms Kelly said. "I do have to express reservations about proposals to reduce the tariff on troubles-related convictions to a zero term sentence."

Alliance Justice spokesperson Stephen Farry said his party would give the latest report full consideration.

"Any approach for dealing with legacy must be consistent with the rule of law and human rights compliant," he said.

Belfast Telegraph