Victims 'robbed' by government plan to end historical prosecutions in Northern Ireland

·3-min read

The government is poised to announce a statute of limitations, effectively ending all prosecutions related to the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Described as a de facto amnesty for former British soldiers and former paramilitaries, the proposal applies to incidents prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

It is opposed by all five of the main political parties in Northern Ireland and by the Irish government.

The move is driven by a government pledge to end the historical prosecution of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

But many victims say they can't believe veterans would want an amnesty that also applies to the very terrorists who murdered their comrades.

It is 30 years since Kathleen Gillespie's husband Patsy was murdered in a particularly brutal IRA attack.

They chained him to a van containing a bomb, held his family at gunpoint and ordered him to drive it to a military base.

The 1,200lb bomb exploded at the Coshquin base near the border, killing the father-of-three and five British soldiers.

Kathleen said: "I feel robbed. I have this thing in my head that when it's an important person that's been killed, their thing is investigated and their thing is solved.

"We're just the ordinary common people so it's alright to push us to the one side," she added.

Thirteen civilians were shot dead and a 14th fatally wounded when the British Parachute Regiment opened fire in Londonderry in January 1972.

Only one veteran was charged with murder but the case against 'Soldier F' was halted last week by public prosecutors.

Mickey McKinney, whose brother William was one of the victims, feels an amnesty only adds to the pain of Bloody Sunday.

Forty-nine years on, his memories of 30 January, 1972, remain vivid and he is fiercely opposed to any statute of limitations in Northern Ireland.

He recalled: "We were trying to escape the effects of the gas and I remember turning round and I saw the Paras coming in.

"I don't trust the British government. Would you trust them if they murdered your brother and told lies about him?"

Relatives of victims of the Birmingham pub bombings have described the plans as "obscene".

Julie Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine was among 21 people killed in the 1974 blasts in Birmingham, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on behalf of the Justice 4 The 21 campaign group to decry the planned legislation.

"Tell me prime minister, if one of your loved ones was blown up beyond recognition, where you were only able to identify your son or daughter by their fingernails because their face had been burned so severely from the blast and little of their remains were left intact, would you be so quick to agree to such obscene legislation being implemented?" Ms Hambleton asked.

"You would do everything in your power to find the murderers and bring them to justice, which is exactly what we campaign for every day."

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is expected to confirm the plan in a parliamentary statement.

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