| 20.3°C Belfast

Sinn Fein backs call for Secretary of State to publish legacy proposals

Linda Dillon

A plea made by the Victims' Commissioner for the Secretary of State to urgently publish details of the proposed legacy legislation has been welcomed by Sinn Fein.

Judith Thompson, head of the victims' watchdog, made the public call to Brandon Lewis after the UK Government announced last month that repeat investigations into Troubles cases are to end.

At the time, Mr Lewis said ending the cycle of re-investigations when there is no new compelling evidence would deliver on the government's promise to protect former soldiers from "vexatious claims".

Under the new proposals, once cases have been considered, there will be a legal bar on any future investigation occurring.

They include a pledge to ensure that Troubles' veterans receive equal treatment to their counterparts who served overseas.

The government's proposals come amid high-profile court cases here involving veterans who are being prosecuted decades after serving during the Troubles.

The proposals also include a "new independent body" to provide information to families and "swift examinations" of all unresolved deaths from the Troubles.

Seeking clarity from the government, the Victims' Commissioner said last week: "The aim of addressing the legacy of the past must be to build a better future.

"It is vital that those who have waited so long for legacy institutions, that have had the widest possible consultation and input, are not simply swept aside in haste to drive through options that will result in yet more decades of legal challenge, hurt, frustration and distrust."

Ms Thompson's comments have been welcomed by Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon, who said yesterday families here have waited too long for the legacy mechanisms to be implemented.

"The Stormont House Agreement is over six years old. Core to that agreement was the resolution of outstanding legacy issues," she insisted.

"In the 'New Decade, New Approach' document, the British Government also reaffirmed their commitment to implementing outstanding legacy legislation."

The MLA continued: "It must now be implemented fully in a human rights compliant manner.

"It is unacceptable that some families have waited five decades for the truth. They shouldn't be forced to wait any longer."

Meanwhile, a report published last week by a group of academics from Queen's University and human rights activists said the latest proposals are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Good Friday Agreement.

Some relatives of victims have also expressed concern that any remaining opportunity to hold account those responsible for committing killings will be taken away. Catholic bishops have also written to Mr Lewis expressing their "deep concern" at the proposal to deal with legacy issues.

Belfast Telegraph