Politicians and victims representatives last night welcomed the findings of a LucidTalk poll that found widespread opposition to a Troubles ‘amnesty’.
Innocent Victims United spokesman Kenny Donaldson said the results were significant, demonstrating the majority of people across society in Northern Ireland were opposed to the Government’s plan for a Statute of Limitations.
“It is our strong view that the numbers within the broad unionist community would be even more conclusive, but for the experience of innocent victims/survivors of terrorism who for 25 years have witnessed the subversion of the criminal justice system in an effort to placate the Provisional Republican Movement,” Mr Donaldson told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We appeal with people to hold their nerve, please continue to stand for and do what you know to be right, do not subject innocent victims/survivors of terrorism to any further pain and injustice. The relative peace you enjoy has been won on the backs of such individuals being consistently used as the collateral damage.
“If the UK proceeds with ending the means for a criminal justice system to operate in the context of ‘Troubles related murders and deaths’ then it is on the brink of ceasing to be a democracy; that cannot and must not happen.”
UUP leader Doug Beattie MLA said: “Those who broke the law should be made amenable under the law, no matter who they were in the past or are now. We must never forget that terrorists were responsible for 90% of deaths during the Troubles.
“Even though it may be extremely difficult to bring successful prosecutions after several decades, the UUP is not prepared to support anything that denies those families a chance of getting justice for their loved ones.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the poll findings “demonstrated that people stand with victims and survivors in opposition to the British Government’s plan for an amnesty which amounts to a gross betrayal of justice
“The British Government cannot be allowed to impose this on people here without their consent.
“Victims deserve the right to seek truth, justice, acknowledgement and accountability.
“The SDLP will continue to stand resolutely with victims and survivors in opposition to these plans.” he said.
A spokesman for the TUV said the poll results were “no surprise".
“The suggestion is reprehensible but, in some respects, it is the natural outworking of a process which threw open the prison gates in 1998 and has seen the repeated perversion of justice since in order to supposedly facilitate peace, most notoriously with the OTR scheme.
“The difference in responses on the part of unionists and nationalists is likely due to the fact that many unionists believe, with good reason on the basis of evidence over the past two and a half decades, that there is no appetite to go after republican terrorists.”
Meanwhile, victims’ advocate and internationally renowned artist Colin Davidson issued an impassioned attack on the Government’s legacy proposals, saying he knows many victims and survivors who have been “literally broken again” by the UK Government’s troubles amnesty plan.
In the first episode of a new podcast, Peace by Piece, being launched this week, which focuses on the stories of peace activists, Ulster University’s new chancellor said: “My sense is this is the first time since the Good Friday Agreement that a line has been crossed and the British Government have crossed that line.”