SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon has said local political leaders have a vital chance to come together today and unequivocally oppose the Government’s proposed Troubles amnesty.
Speaking ahead of the Assembly’s recall from its summer recess following the party’s petition to challenge the Secretary of State’s plans, Ms Mallon said a “clear message” needed to be sent to Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis from across the political spectrum.
“The last time an amnesty for those involved in the most serious crimes was proposed, it was the SDLP who called it out and derailed the plans at Westminster. We are determined to stand by victims again,” she said.
“The arrogant announcement from the British government, which Boris Johnson said would ‘draw a line under the Troubles’, has in fact done the exact opposite.
"These plans have retraumatised victims and forced them to go through the pain of losing their loved one all over again.
“There are few families in the North untouched by the conflict. While the British Government wants to sweep it under the carpet and consign it all to history, the pain felt by victims is still as raw today as it was 40 years ago.
“There can be no amnesty, there can be nowhere to hide. The British Government cannot be allowed to decide who deserves justice and on what terms. They cannot be allowed to extinguish victims’ hopes.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said that the amnesty represented “the final corruption of the criminal justice system” and the “unconscionable validation of terrorism”.
He added: "Before some politicians proclaim unyielding support for innocent victims, let me remind those who drafted, voted for and enforced the Belfast Agreement that amnesty is the logical conclusion to its release of prisoners and, since 1998, subjecting terrorism to a maximum two-year term of imprisonment.
“The same wicked and anti-victim rationale drives amnesty. It is the ultimate outworking of the rewarding of terrorism which the Belfast Agreement initiated.
"The so called ‘peace process’ has been perverse from the beginning, with releases, OTR letters and bye-balls for IRA leaders, all part of the mix leading to this final betrayal.”
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said: “We have engaged with victims and victims’ organisations both before and since the Government’s announcement last week. They have been retraumatised by the Government’s actions.
"To further deny them justice is not morally right, politically acceptable or respectful of their needs.”
Speaking after meeting victims’ groups yesterday, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said London’s proposals were “unacceptable and will not fly”.
She said: “They clearly breach international human rights law, and they are in violation of Article 2 human rights obligations.
"Far from putting victims and survivors front and centre, these proposals disregard and further traumatise victims who have told us that they will take a stand very firmly against these proposals.
"It is clear that the British Government now has a fight on their hands.”