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NIO ‘no intention’ of banning media from investigating Troubles cases


Brandon Lewis. Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Brandon Lewis. Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Brandon Lewis. Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The Northern Ireland Office has insisted it has “no intention” of introducing a ‘code of ethics’ banning media organisations from investigating unsolved Troubles killings if a statute of limitations was introduced by the Government.

Private Eye reported claims that an NIO official said the Government was preparing an ethics code for media outlets, which would have been justified as protecting the peace process.

Responding to social media speculation, the NIO tweeted: “The NIO is not preparing such a code of ethics for media organisations and has no intention of doing so.”

On Thursday a meeting between representatives from the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and the NIO to discuss the Government’s amnesty proposals was cut short after only 10 minutes. The PFC had asked the NIO for the source in the command paper outlining the proposals which stated that security forces were responsible for around 10% of all Troubles-related deaths — “the vast majority of which were lawful”.

The NIO invited the PFC, which represents bereaved families, to attend the meeting but members walked out and said they could not continue until the source has been clarified.

It comes after Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced the statute of limitations proposals last week, which would see the end of all prosecutions for cases up to April 1998.

The legislation would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries and would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the Troubles.

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The plans have been roundly rejected by Stormont’s five main parties and the families of Troubles victims, who held a protest outside Downing Street on Tuesday. Following Thursday’s brief meeting, the PFC said it represents a number of families whose loves ones were killed by the Army and RUC officers.

It added that most of the families have never been afforded independent investigations into their loved ones killings, highlighting a judge’s ruling that the RUC did not arrest, question or take witness statements from soldiers involved in shootings until late 1973.

“It is not possible, therefore, for the British Government to claim the ‘vast majority’ of security force killings were ‘lawful’,” stated the PFC.

“We also take issue with the 10% claim, which excludes deaths where collusion is either suspected or proven. Taken together with recent judgments in the Ballymurphy Massacre inquest and the Bloody Sunday Tribunal report, we believe the command paper must be revised with the ‘lawful’ claim removed.”

The PFC added that it is willing to discuss the legacy proposals, which they find unacceptable and in breach of common law, international law, the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

“But, in all conscience, and out of respect for the families we represent, we feel unable to do so until London has, at least, either produced evidence to back up its claim in the command paper or agrees to withdraw it,” the PFC stated.

A UK Government spokesperson said it does not comment on private meetings, but added: “The Government is committed to continuing engagement with a range of stakeholders, including the Pat Finucane Centre, to find a way forward on legacy issues that focuses on reconciliation, delivers better outcomes for victims, and ends the cycle of investigations that is not working for anyone.”

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