A proposed ban on Troubles prosecutions would not be acceptable in any other modern democracy in the world, the Stormont Assembly has been told.
The SDLP motion rejecting the Government’s statute of limitations proposals passed without any dissenting voices in the chamber after MLAs were recalled from summer recess on Tuesday.
They took part in an emergency sitting to debate the government’s controversial plan to introduce a statute of limitations on crimes committed during the Troubles.
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon tabled the motion in opposition to the proposals outlined by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis last week and told MLAs the Government was attempting to sweep victims’ pain under the carpet.
Ms Mallon branded the proposals a “unilateral move” by the UK Government to deliver a “Tory party answer to a problem created by that same party and its backbench MPs”.
“Backbenchers who have created a bogus myth that an endless parade of veterans are being dragged through the courts here to answer for their past. When the fact is that is not true,” she said.
“Rather than debunk the myth and deal in facts, Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis have decided to cruelly abandon victims and survivors as they play to the gallery.”
Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the proposals would deny bereaved families their rights. “The British political system cannot handle the truth,” she said.
“Is it right that a central party to the conflict is unilaterally seeking to place its forces beyond the reach of the law? The families I’ve spoken to have no sense the British intent is about facilitating reconciliation or making their lives better.”
DUP MLA Mervyn Storey criticised Sinn Fein for accusing the UK Government of “covering up the truth”, highlighting that the IRA was responsible for the vast majority of Troubles crimes.
He said victims “cannot and should not be ignored in this way”.
“The Secretary of State seems to have chosen a path which finds equivalence between the soldier and police officer, and those who planted the bomb or pulled the trigger. This is morally reprehensible,” he said.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie voiced opposition to any move toward an amnesty.
“We have been quite clear that the soldier, the policeman, a terrorist, a member of the public or a politician - if you break the law, then you should face the law,” he said.
He hit out at the Irish government’s contribution to legacy issues and said they’ve done nothing to investigate attacks that originated on that side of the border
“Thousands of attacks emanated from Ireland across the border, to maim and kill our citizens and the retreated back across the border and they are not investigating. Silence is as bad as putting forward these recommendations,” he said.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said the legacy proposals were “neither victim-centred or victim-focused”. Ms Long also queried “what kind of message” the legacy proposals send to those still engaged in terrorism and their victims.
Here is how the debate unfolded: