Belfast Telegraph

Simon Coveney 'would like to see a united Ireland' in his 'political lifetime'

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has told a parliamentary committee that he wants to see a united Ireland in his political lifetime.

Mr Coveney was addressing the Oireachtas committee on the Good Friday Agreement.

He said: "I am a constitutional nationalist, I would like to see a united Ireland in my lifetime. If possible, in my political lifetime."

He added that any moves toward Irish unification should be careful, learn from the past and ensure more steps are taken to protect and include a unionist minority.

Meanwhile, during the committee session Mr Coveney also warned that a proposed amnesty for soldiers accused of crimes during the Troubles has the potential to undermine legacy processes.

Earlier this week it was revealed an upcoming UK government consultation on how to deal with legacy issues from the conflict will include a proposal that soldiers who committed crimes while deployed in Northern Ireland may be subject to a statute of limitations, meaning they would cease to be prosecuted once a certain time limit has expired.

Mr Coveney told the committee: "Our view is that it would be very unhelpful to have as part of the consultation process any new questions around the use of a statute of limitations or a creation of an amnesty.

"What that creates is a tiering of categories, if you like, in terms of atrocities that happened and treating them differently depending on where a person comes from or who they were working for, whether they were working for the state or not."

Mr Coveney added he would speak to Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire on Thursday evening to raise his concerns about it with him directly.

A number of unresolved killings from the conflict have been the subject of reinvestigation in recent years, including alleged murders by paramilitary groups and soldiers.

The DUP has previously raised concerns about whether soldiers are being subject to an unfair focus within these investigations.

Mr Brokenshire announced in September that a public consultation would be launched on a number of proposals on how legacy issues should be dealt with. The policy document has yet to be published.

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street on Monday, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said his party had not been informed that a statute of limitations would be contained in the consultation and accused the UK government of acting in "bad faith".

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