Dublin must admit own legacy failings

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) is calling on the Republic of Ireland Government to admit its own dark past in the continuing legacy debate.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “Dublin has some nerve lecturing anyone about the past and their own failings and misdeeds.

“Dublin should commit itself to being an honest broker in this debate. The Republic of Ireland has questions to answer about murders that took place on their own soil and alleged collusion that took place between agents of their State and republican terrorists.

“The Dublin Government should endeavour to have a positive input. Soldiers and others were abducted and taken across the border to be brutally interrogated and murdered. Then their bodies were transported back and dumped across the border.

“Where were the investigations by the Gardai? Why was extradition blocked at every turn? Why is Dublin not ready to admit to its grubby past with a view to delivering for victims of terrorism?

“Now, of course, we have Ministers lecturing the British Government on legacy matters when their own track-record is stained and kept under lock and key.

“UHRW request that Dublin open its records and do what Belfast has already done by making information freely available about terrorist attacks launched from the Republic of Ireland and the cloak of secrecy that was thrown over its ‘blind eye’ support for republican terrorists.

“It is time for Dublin to stop lecturing, to shine a light on its own dark past and fulfil its human rights obligations in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Declaration: The Alternative to the Stormont House Agreement For Dealing with the Legacy of the Past 14 July 2021

The serious deficiencies of the proposed Stormont House Agreement arrangements for dealing with the past have been made clear.

While claiming to be victim-centred, the major failure of the Stormont House Agreement was that it did not provide a definition of ‘victim’. Victims of crime who, in relation to the Troubles are victims of terrorism, must be dissociated from perpetrators of acts of terrorism. Therefore, the definition of victim of terrorism should constitute the basis of any new arrangements for dealing with the legacy of the past.

The analysis of the functioning of the Stormont House Agreement’s suggested bodies revealed key issues of concern and weaknesses. It would appear that these bodies, instead of serving the interests of victims of terrorism and society at large, would be used against former members of the police and the armed forces and benefit those who were engaged in terrorism and their sympathisers.

Urgent requirement

 An alternative is urgently required to address the legacy of the past in order to bring about a satisfactory resolution within the context of a democratic society. It should be founded on fundamental principles that uphold human rights for all interested parties: victims of terrorism, police officers and army personnel.

Investigating bodies such as the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Legacy Investigation Branch should be made compliant with human rights requirements.

An archive for victims of terrorism stories and testimonies should be created in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland to be made available to the public; and a Committee for Peace, Freedom and Reconciliation should be created to develop policies and educational programmes to combat terrorism and radicalisation and promote peace, freedom and reconciliation.

Republic of Ireland role

The alternative should also involve the Republic of Ireland in setting up investigating and information recovery bodies that mirror those existing in Northern Ireland. These bodies would investigate historical cases and criminal activities that may have been committed by members of the Garda Síochána. They would also review numerous extradition requests made by the United Kingdom but never honoured by the Republic of Ireland and cooperate with the authorities in Northern Ireland for the resolution of historical cases. The Republic of Ireland would also make its archive available for consultation in relation to historical cases, as they are in Northern Ireland.

Final settlement

This comprehensive approach to dealing with the legacy of the past will have the potential to deliver a final settlement and durable peace.

The alternative proposed by the Ulster Human Rights Watch for dealing with the legacy of the past will ensure that:

  • The truth concerning the murder of victims of terrorism will be sought and told;
  • Justice will always remain available for those who lost loved ones or were seriously injured and no statute of limitation will be introduced to protect perpetrators;
  • The suffering of innocent victims of terrorism will be acknowledged;
  • Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Right will not be implemented to the detriment of those who fought against terrorism;
  • All investigating processes will be compliant with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • All investigating processes will be compliant with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • No-one will be able to use any right under the European Convention on Human Rights to destroy the rights of others in compliance with Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • The history of the campaign of terrorism in Northern Ireland and its impact on the people of Northern Ireland and democracy will be written and told;
  • Terrorism and its consequences will be exposed, denounced and rejected;
  • Support will be provided for innocent victims of terrorism;
  • The commitment of those involved in the security forces to protect democracy and uphold human rights will be recognised;
  • All murders and serious injury cases will be addressed;
  • The new structures for dealing with the past will be practical and cost-effective;
  • Compensation for victims of terrorism will be addressed;
  • The Republic of Ireland will be accountable for its role in what happened during the Troubles;
  • The way for potential reconciliation will be made possible.

Reference: ‘Dealing with the Legacy of the Past, The Alternative to the Stormont House Agreement’, Ulster Human Rights Watch, July 2021.

Government’s legacy proposals are a ‘betrayal of police and military veterans’

Victims campaign group, Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW), has said the Government’s legacy proposals ‘are a betrayal to victims and former police and military veterans.’

The Secretary of State outlined the Government’s intention to bring forward legislation in the autumn that will protect retired officers and veterans from prosecutions before 1998 and extend the same protection to republican and loyalist terrorists.

Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “The Government’s position on legacy is a sorry mess and an affront to men and women who wore a uniform to counter gangs of terrorist murderers.

“The proposals deny innocent victims justice by exonerating the gunman and bomber. Ministers are saying there is equivalence between soldiers, police officers and terrorists and that is disgraceful.

“To equate officers and military veterans – agents of the State – in the same bracket as those who were hell-bent on murdering them makes a laughing-stock out of our system of justice.

“What ever happened to following the evidence to bring closure for victims? There’s no denying there is a chronic shortage of evidence, but that shouldn’t be the end of the story. In some cases, after many years of stalemate, information or evidence emerges that advances a case and brings it closer to prosecution in a Court of law.

“What the Government wishes to do is draw a line in the sand, to say any outstanding cases against either the military, police or terrorists that pre-date 1998 will not merit investigation or prosecution.

“This is a denial of justice, a betrayal of victims and former police officers and military veterans who suffered appalling losses as they worked courageously to protect the community from anarchy.

“The Government, in its haste to close a chapter, has got it all wrong by proposing to reward terrorists who did nothing but visit mayhem and carnage on innocent people.

“We will now mount a campaign to halt what amounts to a sell-out. We intend galvanising political support to make Ministers think again about these foolhardy and rash proposals.”

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