Labour leader expresses opposition to Troubles amnesty

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged against an amnesty being offered over events in Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

The UK and Irish governments recently announced “intensive engagement” to take place on legacy matters.

It was reported earlier this year that London is considering a statute of limitations which would ban all prosecutions for Troubles-era offences.

Keir Starmer visit to Belfast
Sir Keir Starmer hangs a message on the Tree to Remember Jean McConville at the Wave Trauma Centre (Charles McQuillan/PA)

Sir Keir urged the Prime Minister to talk to victims.

“I don’t agree with it (an amnesty), I don’t think that it is the right plan and I think any discussion about legacy has to start here in Northern Ireland, sitting down with victims and those most affected, and I would urge the Prime Minister to take that approach rather than the one he is taking,” he told the PA news agency during a visit to Londonderry.

Sir Keir has been undertaking two days of official engagements in Northern Ireland.

On Thursday he met a number of victims of the Troubles at the Wave Trauma Centre in north Belfast.

“It’s a very difficult issue (legacy). We spoke to people yesterday at Wave, I have spoken to many victims over the years, and on legacy we have to start with them and work through what they’re feeling now,” he said.

“Many of them expressed to me yesterday that the impact that it still has on them if they lost a loved one, on their families, their siblings, their children, and of course those that were injured.

“Any discussion about legacy has to start with them. Promises have been made, promises haven’t been kept, and I think that’s where the conversation has to start.

“We have to find a way forward but they very strongly feel that you can’t sit in London and draw a line, it has to start here, with them, conversations about how we move forward.”

Sir Keir started his final day of engagements in Northern Ireland with a visit to Londonderry.

Keir Starmer visit to Belfast
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer with shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh at the Parliament Buildings at Stormont (Peter Morrison/PA)

The Labour leader and shadow secretary of state Louise Haigh met with Sara Canning, the partner of journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed by dissidents in the city in 2019.

After walking across the peace bridge he was greeted by SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood before visiting the Guildhall.

Sir Keir said it had been very special to meet Ms Canning and talk to her about her fight for justice for Ms McKee.

Keir Starmer visit to Londonderry
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer meets Sara Canning, whose partner Lyra McKee was killed in 2019, on The Peace Bridge in Londonderry (Peter Morrison/PA)

He later tweeted: “Lyra McKee was the very best of Northern Ireland. She dreamt of a future of equality and reconciliation. Lyra’s partner, Sara Canning, continues her work for a lasting peace. I was honoured to cross the Peace Bridge, a symbol of reconciliation between two communities, with Sara.”

Mr Eastwood said he discussed the Northern Ireland Protocol and legacy as well as underinvestment in Derry with Sir Keir and Ms Haigh.

“We share similar views on the Northern Ireland Protocol, we never wanted Brexit, but we need to work together to deal with the challenges and maximise the opportunities facing people, communities and businesses,” he said.

“We also welcome his call for a victims-led approach to legacy. The British Government cannot be allowed to close down the routes to truth and justice for victims.

“We also discussed the historic underinvestment in Derry and the North West in general.

“The potential for our city is there for everyone to see. We need a full-scale university in the North West, as guaranteed in New Decade, New Approach – it will be key to realising our aims for the city and this was the view we put to the Labour leader.”

The SDLP leader added: “It’s also welcome that Mr Starmer met with Sara Canning to hear her story and show his solidarity in her quest for justice for Lyra. The SDLP stands fully behind her.”