A sister of one of those killed in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham has said the proposed statute of limitations on Troubles prosecutions is “another punch in the face” for victims.
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced the proposals last week, which would see the end of all prosecutions for cases up to April 1998.
The legislation would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries, and would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the Troubles.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the plans would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles” but they have been roundly condemned by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland.
People who lost loved ones met at Downing Street yesterday to express their outrage at the proposals.
Jayne Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed in the IRA’s bombings in Birmingham, said that if an amnesty is granted to terrorists, the Government will have replaced the rule of law with the “gun and the bomb”.
The IRA planted two bombs at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on November 21, 1974, killing 21 people and injuring 220 others.
Ms Hambleton told this newspaper that if the Government presses ahead with its plans, it should be regarded as the Government who “puts terrorists before victims”.
“History shows that when you allow murderous zealots the opportunity to slaughter without any repercussions, they revel in that weakness,” she added.
“The terrorist killers will celebrate their escape from prosecution, and see it as the ultimate justification of their vile actions.
“Knowing that there is no political will to see justice done will simply strengthen the resolve of these killers whilst the victims’ families are left with the desperate knowledge that their Government does not give a damn for their suffering.”
Billy McManus, who lost his father in Belfast’s Sean Graham bookmakers massacre in 1992, said the Government will “slam the door” in grieving families' faces with its proposed statute of limitations.
His father William was one of five people killed when a loyalist gang opened fire on the bookies.
Speaking at Downing Street yesterday, Mr McManus said his family were within "touching distance" of getting answers about the attack.
An inquest into the killings is scheduled for January 10 next year, while Mr McManus said his family expected to receive a report from the Police Ombudsman in the next few months.
“There is a lot of anger and hurt at what they are going to do,” he said. “They are just going to erase the memory of my father and it doesn't count.
"The British Government needs to stand up and take responsibility for what it did - if it wants to solve the legacy issues it needs to help the families get the justice they deserve.”
Also present was Joe Campbell Jnr, whose father Joseph - a Catholic police officer - was shot dead outside Cushendall RUC station in 1977.
"We live in a democracy and some of the fundamental rights of a democracy are the right to an inquest and the right to remedy through the criminal and civil courts," Mr Campbell said.
"Boris Johnson and his cabinet are trying to take that away not just from me and my 86-year-old mother, but all victims and survivors, and that is just wrong.”
Yesterday’s demonstrators delivered a letter to Downing Street demanding the proposed legislation be scrapped.
One line read: “Your proposals are not for the benefit of victims and their families to help them move on, they are there to protect the British Government [from] being exposed (for) the major part they played in the murders of thousands of innocent victims.”
Raymond McCord, whose 22-year-old son, Raymond Jnr, was murdered by the UVF in Belfast in 1997, said he was "absolutely disgusted" at the plans.
"We are the ones who are forgotten about,” he added.