Belfast Telegraph

Relatives give mixed reaction to terrorist pardon plan

By Suzanne Breen

Victims' relatives in Northern Ireland are divided on Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson's suggestion that a Troubles-related amnesty be introduced.

Most of those contacted by the Belfast Telegraph opposed such a move, but some said it was the most realistic option, or that an amnesty existed for certain perpetrators anyway.

In a letter, Mr Williamson told Prime Minister Theresa May that soldiers who had served here should have the "protection they deserve", and "if this means a wider amnesty, so be it".

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in 1984, challenged the Defence Secretary to come to Northern Ireland to meet victims.

She said: "Listen to their needs and wants before you make any decisions or statements regarding dealing with Northern Ireland. Nobody has got the right to remove the right for justice from families who have lost their loved ones or to individuals who have had murder attempts on their lives."

Ms Travers said the IRA was "a terrorist organisation which must not be equated with the security forces", but she added: "Anyone who served in the security forces and did act criminally must also face the rule of law."

Kate Nash, whose brother Willie was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said: "The behind-closed-doors talk of amnesties is now out in the open. Victims and their families want justice and we want prosecutions."

Ms Nash said she was hopeful that the prosecution of some Bloody Sunday soldiers would be announced in the autumn. "Theresa May and others talk total rubbish about a witch-hunt against soldiers. The facts prove the opposite. Only a handful of soldiers have ever been prosecuted here and they've got minimal sentences and walked right back into the Army," she said.

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond jnr, was shot dead by the UVF in 1997 opposed an amnesty. "We're told Brexit applies right across the UK, that there can be no special status for anywhere.

He said: "Yet some people want different rules here for murder - the most heinous crime on the statute book. Gavin Williamson should visit our graveyards. His proposal insults my son and every other victim in Northern Ireland. Justice and prosecutions for all."

Anthony Fox's parents, Tess and Charlie, were shot dead by the UVF with alleged security force collusion in their home in the Moy, Co Tyrone, in 1993.

He said: "Realistically at this stage, prosecutions won't happen. They would be meaningless anyway because anyone convicted would serve only two years in jail.

"Gavin Williamson is right to propose an amnesty across the board and not just for one side. The State holds the key to so many legacy cases. An amnesty would open the door for a truth and reconciliation commission."

Michelle Williamson, whose parents George and Gillian died in the IRA's 1993 Shankill bomb, supported the proposal.

"The forces of law and order should be given an amnesty because it seems that terrorists already have one," she said.

"They have been allowed to walk free from prison, on-the-runs have been allowed to return without fear of prosecution, they have walked free from court with their comfort letters and it seems some of them are allowed to re-offend time after time without risking their release license."

Aileen Quinton, whose mother Alberta was killed in the IRA's 1987 Enniskillen bomb, said she understood concerns about security force prosecutions but opposed a general amnesty. That would fall into a trap set by republicans, she claimed.

"Sinn Fein's motivation isn't protecting its own but rather securing a moral equivalence between the security forces and terrorists which would set a dangerous precedent for the future," she said. "In his proposal, the Defence Secretary is acting against the security of the country. It's letting the bad guys win."

Serena Hamilton, whose UDR father David Graham, was shot dead in 1977, said: "I don't support a general amnesty but there should be protection for soldiers who came to Northern Ireland to serve their country and took commands.

"They may have mistakenly and accidentally shot someone - probably because they were pretrified - but they can't be compared to terrorists who planned and plotted murder."

Belfast Telegraph

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