No 10 braces for political row over amnesty for Irish Troubles terrorists

No 10 braces for political row over amnesty for Irish terrorists as part of plans to draw a line under Troubles prosecution

  • Number 10 braces for political row over amnesty for Irish Troubles terrorists
  • Legislation on a statute of limitations is expected to be introduced at Christmas
  • Proposals would also ban prosecution of British soldiers accused of shootings at the time


Downing Street prepares for a political spat over an effective amnesty for Irish terrorists as part of the government’s plans to draw a line under the Troubles prosecution.

It is expected that by Christmas a statute of limitations will be introduced for offenses committed by both sides in the conflict between the late 1960s and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The final plans come after months of bickering over opposition to the amnesty over the political divide in Northern Ireland.

The proposals would effectively ban the prosecution of British soldiers accused of shootings – and of offenses committed by Republican or loyalist terrorists if new evidence emerges. Controversially, they would also apply to terror attacks on the British mainland, such as the Birmingham pub bombings.

Tory MP and former Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer (right) said last night that terrorists would be the biggest beneficiaries

A source at the Northern Ireland Office justified the decision to go ahead with the proposals, adding: ‘No meaningful steps towards reconciliation can be taken until the threat of prosecution has been removed through the introduction of a statute of limitations.’

Tory MP and former Veterans Secretary Johnny Mercer said last night that terrorists would be the biggest beneficiaries. Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley warned that if these same proposals were “dressed in a new suit, they will face universal opposition” from victims of violence and British Army veterans who served in Northern Ireland.

It came after a poll for the main organization representing the victims of Troubles suggested 70 percent of people in Northern Ireland opposed amnesty.

But The Mail on Sunday was told yesterday that the government intended to go ahead with its statute of limitations.

The Northern Ireland Office source said: ‘We’ve heard a lot of noise about the road ahead which we plotted over six months ago, but those who shout the loudest haven’t yielded any viable alternatives. If there was agreement on a different way forward, it would have been agreed and realized by now.

“Outdated issues in Northern Ireland are extremely challenging, sensitive and divisive. But we cannot ignore them. Twenty-three years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, we must not allow victims and veterans to remain in this cruel limbo.

“The proposals we have made are aimed at helping Northern Irish society towards a more reconciled future.”

Downing Street prepares for political spat over an effective amnesty for Irish terrorists as part of government plans to draw a line under prosecution of Troubles

Downing Street prepares for political spat over an effective amnesty for Irish terrorists as part of government plans to draw a line under prosecution of Troubles

However, there is anger that the proposed terrorists, once free from the threat of prosecution, may fail to cooperate with an information recovery agency to reveal what happened to the victims. This document understands that people will only be fined if they refuse to cooperate – not in prison.

Mr Mercer said veterans would not support the plans, adding: “We want to see an end to the unfair pursuit of military veterans. But that doesn’t mean we should cut off the roads to justice for families.

“The biggest groups that will benefit from this and most welcome it are terrorists. Military veterans don’t want an amnesty. They want those who broke the law to be prosecuted if there is evidence.”

Sinn Fein also called for the ‘amnesty proposals’ to be withdrawn last night, claiming: ‘It is clear that the British government is not listening to victims and survivors or to the political parties.’

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