UK and Irish governments urged to convene summit on NI legacy

The UK and Irish governments have been urged to convene a summit on dealing with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald made the call amid strong opposition to controversial draft legacy legislation, which is currently making its way through Parliament.

If passed, the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill will offer immunity for Troubles offences in exchange for co-operation with a new truth recovery body.

It would also halt future civil cases and inquests linked to killings during the conflict.

The Government made some amendments to the draft bill earlier this week, which included enabling the truth recovery body to be able to conduct criminal investigations “where it judges that to be appropriate”.

However the proposed law changes are opposed by all Stormont’s main parties and the Irish Government, as well as victims’ groups in the region, which have denounced it as an “amnesty” for killers.

Rishi Sunak visits Lancashire and County Durham
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (PA)

Ms McDonald said she has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Irish premier Leo Varadkar asking that they call an urgent summit on legacy issues.

She also urged that the legacy bill be halted.

“There are widespread concerns and opposition to British government legacy plans currently being pushed through Westminster,” she said.

“These very real concerns are shared by victims and families, human rights experts, churches, the UN, and senior officials in the EU and US administration and all the political parties on this island.

“The proposed legislation will shut the door on families’ efforts to achieve truth and justice through the courts and give an amnesty to British state forces who killed Irish citizens.”

She said a joint summit would be an opportunity to work together to deliver an agreed way forward for victims.

“That is the best way to understand the views of all victims and families, to ensure their legal right to truth and justice is upheld and help the process of healing and reconciliation,” she said.

“To create space for that dialogue to take place, I have urged the British Government to stop the passage of its unacceptable legacy legislation and convene the summit urgently.”