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Taoiseach: UK Troubles amnesty proposals are ‘get-out-of-jail’ legislation for ex-paramilitaries

Its ‘unilateral strain’ on other issues also criticised as he meets local parties

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Visit: Micheal Martin speaks to media in Belfast yesterday. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Visit: Micheal Martin speaks to media in Belfast yesterday. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

PA

Visit: Micheal Martin speaks to media in Belfast yesterday. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has claimed UK plans to address the legacy of the Troubles amount to “get-out-of-jail” legislation for ex-paramilitaries.

On a visit to Belfast he also hit out at a “unilateral strain” in the UK Government over Northern Ireland issues.

Mr Martin was speaking following meetings with Stormont’s main parties yesterday.

Addressing the plans around legacy, he said: “I think it has united the families of many victims of terrible atrocities against the measures of the British Government.

“It’s a unilateral measure again and I have concerns about the unilateral strain within the current British Government towards aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I don’t think that’s positive and I don’t think it’s helpful.”

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He said previous London administrations had taken their role as a co-guarantor of the Agreement more seriously.

“Fundamentally, I’m very much opposed to what the British Government is proposing here in terms of essentially the guts of an amnesty for people who committed terrible crimes irrespective of whether they’re security forces or members of various paramilitary groups who committed terrible crimes.

“For many of those paramilitary groups, this is literally get-out-of-jail legislation from any further investigation.”

Regarding the protocol, Mr Martin said that “legitimate issues” had been raised but he was confident they could be resolved.

With many accusing the DUP of holding the Assembly to ransom, Mr Martin was asked if he supported changing the structures to avoid further crisis.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened… that’s not a satisfactory situation,” he said.

“The people have voted and I think that there’s a huge responsibility on all involved to respond to the vote of the people,” he added.

“I have a passionate belief in the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement which were hard won…. too much work has been put into this to allow the democratic institutions established in the Good Friday Agreement to just (end)”.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “We have had what I would describe as a useful meeting with the Taoiseach.

“We spelled it out very clearly to him the problems with the protocol, the harm it is doing to Northern Ireland, and that we need a solution. We need decisive action to deal with these problems.”

Speaking before her meeting with Mr Martin, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said the DUP was “denying democracy” over its Stormont boycott.

She added the Taoiseach had “a very significant role” to play as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

“At a time where democracy is being denied, at a time where the DUP are continuing to prevent the facilitation of an Executive being formed, an Executive that could start to deliver for the public, I think it is important that he is here to assert his role and to listen to all of the parties.”

Meanwhile, an intervention by US Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the protocol row was described by Mr Donaldson as “unhelpful”.

Ms Pelosi said the US Congress will not support a free trade agreement with the UK if the Government persists with “deeply concerning plans to unilaterally discard the protocol”.

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie described Ms Pelosi’s remarks as “not just deeply regrettable and misinformed... but completely wrong”.


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