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Secretary of State Brandon Lewis confirms government seeking statute of limitations on Troubles-related killings

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over the issue in the House of Commons on Wednesday lunchtime

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The Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has confirmed the government will seek to introduce a statute of limitations on Troubles-related killings.

Mr Lewis said the government planned to bring legislation through by the autumn.

Speaking in Westminster on Wednesday, Mr Lewis said the plan was a “painful recognition of the reality of where we are”.

"The past is a constant shadow over those who directly experienced the horror of those times,” he said.

“It is clear that the current system for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles is not working. It is now a difficult, in fact painful truth, that the focus on criminal prosecutions is increasingly unlikely to deliver successful criminal justice outcomes.”

Mr Lewis said the legislation would include three parts, with a statute of limitations part of it, which would “apply equally to all Troubles-related incidents”.

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He said an independent body would also be set up which will focus on truth and reconciliation, with powers to gather information about Troubles killings.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the plans were “totally unacceptable and will be rejected by everyone in Northern Ireland”.

"There can be no equivalence between the soldier and police officer who served their country and those cowardly terrorists who hid behind masks and terrorised under the cover of darkness. We find any such attempted equivalence as offensive,” he said.

“The Democratic Unionist Party, both publicly and privately, has, and continues to oppose any form of amnesty. Everyone must be equal under the law and equally subject to the law. We will oppose any plans that give an effective amnesty to those who murdered and maimed over many decades.

“Whilst we understand that with the passage of time the prospect of justice is diminishing for many but these proposals, if passed, will extinguish that flickering flame of justice completely and is a moral overreach that cannot be accepted.”

The Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry said the plans constitute “an assault on the rule of law and human rights”.

“The UK Government has unilaterally abandoned the Stormont House Agreement, something agreed by two Governments and most local parties,” he said.

“This approach is framed solely around the perceived need to address what is a false narrative of vexatious investigations of army veterans. It is shocking the Government facilitates a de facto amnesty across the board, including for republican and loyalist terrorists, to achieve this.

Speaking in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson clashed with Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer over the issue.

Mr Johnson described the proposals as, “measured” and “balanced”.

“The people of Northern Ireland must, if we possibly can allow them to, they must move forward,” said Boris Johnson.

“He will know the proposals that have been brought forward are measured, they are balanced and they have a wide degree of support.

“He will recall that it was under that Labour administration that many terrorists were unfortunately effectively given an amnesty. That is the reality.

“Whilst the sad fact remains, that there are many members of the armed services who continue to face the threat of vexatious prosecutions well into their 70s and 80s and we are finally bringing forward a solution to this problem.

“To enable the province of Northern Ireland to draw a line under the Troubles. To enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward.”

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign affairs minister, said the government proposals were not "a fait accompli".

He tweeted that the Irish government has a "very different view" and that he and Brandon Lewis were "committed to an inclusive dialogue to try to agree consensus and that's under way".

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer challenged the Prime Minister on the proposals, with the politician referencing his time working in Northern Ireland with the PSNI Policing Board and as Director of Public Prosecutions.

“A blanket amnesty, including for terrorists, is plain wrong. I was in Northern Ireland last week and it is absolutely clear that the government’s amnesty is not supported by the political parties in Northern Ireland and it is not supported by victims groups.

“I spoke to victims of terrorism at the Wave Trauma Centre in north Belfast...they haven't even been properly consulted on this proposal. If things are to move forward in Northern Ireland, any discussion has to start with the victims.

“Politicians in London can't simply draw a line under terrorism and other crimes.”


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