Victims’ campaigners Raymond McCord and Billy McManus unite to oppose planned amnesty
Victims’ campaigners Raymond McCord and Billy McManus are heading to Downing Street to hand in a letter of protest against the government’s proposed Troubles amnesty.
Mr McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was killed by the UVF in 1997, and Mr McManus, who lost his father William in the UDA’s Sean Graham bookie massacre in 1992, said they were outraged over proposals to end prosecutions.
The pair will be joined by families of the victims of the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings when they deliver the letter in person to No. 10 on Tuesday.
Mr McCord told Sunday Life: “What Boris Johnson is telling the victims is ‘Your lives don’t matter’.
“There were soldiers, police officers, civilians and terrorists murdered, and Boris Johnson doesn’t care about one of those lives. All he cares about is protecting the British state.
“When it [the plan] was announced, I was so disgusted I couldn’t watch the news.
“My reaction, on a personal level, was I thought I had let my son and my family down.
“I said for years we had to work within the law, that the justice system would get the people who murdered Raymond Jnr... then this.
“I was low for a few days before I called Billy and said ‘Let’s go to Downing Street with a letter of protest’.
“We’re not going away, the fight won’t go away and we’re already starting legal proceedings against the proposals. How does stopping prosecutions help victims to move on?
“We just want the justice system to work for us, and the system says murder is a crime. Boris Johnson and the Cabinet are now saying it’s only a crime when they say it’s a crime.”
Anger has been building among victims’ groups and across the political spectrum since the plans were unveiled in Parliament.
Mr McCord said that his son’s case may fall outside the proposals because the UVF previously denied it was involved in his murder.
The campaigner added that because of the amnesty, he no longer considered himself a unionist.
“I’m from a unionist family and my father was in the Orange Order, but I have to say, after this announcement, I have no allegiance to Westminster or the Crown,” he explained.
“I’m no longer a unionist because I can see, along with thousands of others, the disgusting treatment we are subjected to by the British state.
“After my son was murdered, I met David Ervine several times. He said, after speaking with the UVF, that they were not involved and didn’t sanction it. They said it was carried out by criminals.
“I met the UVF leadership on the Shankill and they told me their organisation was not involved.
“As far as I’m concerned, my son’s case shouldn’t come into this — and there are a lot of other cases that fall into the same bracket.
“There’s going to be a lot of challenges to this legislation. We’re going to fight them on this.”
Fellow campaigner Mr McManus, whose father and four others were murdered in the bookie massacre, also slammed the amnesty proposal.
With allegations of state collusion surrounding the case, he vowed to keep battling.
“We’ve been fighting for over 25 years to get justice and truth for my father,” he said.
“I was disgusted and heartbroken when I heard about the proposals.
“It’s a slap in the face to everybody who lost somebody during the conflict. The British government just doesn’t care.
“It’s very painful because I was outside the bookies minutes after it happened and what I saw was out of a horror story.
“I saw people being carried out covered in blood and then I had to go and identify my father, which I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
“Hopefully, this [the amnesty] won’t go through. It’s an absolute disaster for anyone searching for justice and truth from both sides of the community.
“The government just doesn’t care, but what they need to realise is we will never give up.
“I am hopeful that all the parties at Stormont will come together to oppose this.
“We’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder to give the victims the chance of truth.
“The politicians say we need to move on but they don’t know what it’s like — I live with this every minute of every day.
“Amnesties do not work. They will only help the government and the murderers.”