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.”

UHRW calls for radical new approach to dealing with the past

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) is calling for a radical new approach to dealing with the legacy of the past, with victims of terrorism placed front and centre in a new strategy. This message was delivered by UHRW in a meeting with Ian Paisley MP.

The Lurgan-based organisation is also proposing the setting up of a Committee for Peace, Freedom and Reconciliation. This should be created to combat terrorism and radicalisation and promote peace, freedom and reconciliation.

UHRW has produced a detailed Paper exposing the serious deficiencies of the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) which, if uncorrected, would lead to ‘highly undesirable and disappointing results’ for innocent victims.

The Paper argues that the SHA fails to include a definition of a victim and highlights weaknesses in the four new bodies that are proposed.

The human rights charity makes the case for an alternative to addressing the legacy of the past both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “We support the new approach outlined by the Secretary of State in March last year and want to make the point that only a radical shake-up of proposed arrangements is appropriate.

“We want arrangements that effectively and efficiently address the legacy of the past. The SHA falls far short of doing that.

“Now, is the time to go back to the drawing board to replace the serious deficiencies in the SHA. Its major failing was that it did not provide a definition of a ‘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.

“An analysis of the functioning of the SHA suggested bodies reveals 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.

“An alternative is required to address the legacy of the past, which will bring about a satisfactory resolution within the context of a democratic society. It should be based 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. 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.

“The alternative should also involve the Republic of Ireland in setting up investigating and information recovery bodies that would 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 co-operate with the authorities in Northern Ireland for the resolution of historical cases. The Republic of Ireland would also make its archives available for consultation in relation to historical cases, as they are in Northern Ireland.

“This comprehensive approach to dealing with the legacy of the past has the potential to deliver a final settlement and durable peace.”

‘Come clean’ call to Irish Government over Narrow Water atrocity

A clumsy attempt at a cover-up is how Ulster Human Rights Watch is describing Irish Government documents relating to the massacre of soldiers at Narrow Water forty-two years ago.

Official papers released to National Archives Ireland challenge and deny that the detonation point for the bomb(s) was across the border in County Louth. The documents from the Department of the Taoiseach are contradicted by follow-up actions by the Gardai who discovered the detonation point in the Cooley Peninsula.

UHRW says four official documents strongly suggest a co-ordinated Irish Government attempt at disinformation.

UHRW Advocacy Support Officer, Jonathan Larner, said: “The official line from Dublin, that persisted with the lie that the Republic of Ireland had not been used in this horrific ambush, is staggering. It’s time Dublin came clean and told the relatives of the murdered and injured soldiers the full extent of what happened.

“We would ask Taoiseach Micheál Martin, to explain this official position of the Government. To all intents and purposes, this was a clumsy attempt at a cover-up to conceal the fact that Republic of Ireland territory was used to carry out the atrocity.

“The suggestion that Gardaí failed to properly investigate the Narrow Water detonation site, and secure its integrity for RUC investigators, is central to the allegations of collusion with the Provisional IRA.

“Now, it turns out that, while Gardaí had supposedly investigated the site and gathered evidence against suspects, the Irish Government was forwarding a co-ordinated line of disinformation, to assert that the detonation site was not in their jurisdiction.

“If Taoiseach Micheál Martin is serious about a ‘Shared Island’, and engagement with unionists, then perhaps he can start by addressing precisely what the Minister for Justice and Department of the Taoiseach were doing.’

UHRW has written to the Taoiseach in the search for answers.

It asks why the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, was advised to challenge the plausibility of the detonation site and why his Justice Minister, Gerry Collins, publicly denied any State responsibility when Gardai were already investigating the crime.

Mr Larner continued: “Were officials deliberately setting out to cover the State’s embarrassment for allowing its territory to be used by republican terrorists and did the Gardaí inform the Government of the facts?”

UHRW represents the brother of one of the murdered soldiers who wishes to remain anonymous.

He said: “These documents betray a blatant dishonesty on the part of the Irish Government. Officials advised their Ministers, but why did these same senior politicians not believe An Garda Síochána?

“The firing point was never in doubt, yet it didn’t prevent officials from mounting a crude effort to falsify and mislead. Were officials told to do this and, if so, who gave that instruction? I would like the Taoiseach to shed light on this and work to expose a troubling part of the Republic of Ireland’s role in a vile terrorist campaign.”


  1. Document summing up the challenges facing the Irish government in the wake of the killing of Lord Mountbatten and eighteen British soldiers:

It has not been lost on the British and other media that both outrages took place in close proximity to the border, one on our soil, the other with allegations of involvement (however dubious) from the southern side of the border.

(NAI 2009/135/754: 29 August – 03 September 1979; p.2, para.1)

  1. Statement by the Minister for Justice, Gerry Collins TD, in response to comments by John Taylor MEP:

He tries to convey the impression that the tragic deaths of 20 British soldiers were the result of activity directed from here. Mr. Taylor has no evidence to support this. The explosions occurred in Northern Ireland and any attempt to imply that the crime was committed by people from the South is reckless speculation.

(NAI 2009/135/704: 31 August 1979; p.2, para.1)

  1. Meeting with British Prime Minister, London, 5th September 1979, Summary Notes:

There is no evidence, so far, any shooting at Warrenpoint, came from the Irish side of the border. There is no evidence to the effect that the detonation was effected from this side of the border.

(NAI 2009/135/704: 03 September 1979; p.7, para.5)

  1. ‘Panorama Programme’, Briefing document prepared for J. Lynch, then Taoiseach, in the wake of the killing of Lord Mountbatten and 18 British soldiers near Warrenpoint, County Down:

He might reiterate readiness to take every action open to us, refer to charging of two men for Lord Mountbatten’s murder and to lack of evidence, as yet, of southern involvement in Warrenpoint attack, despite so many unqualified statements that it was mounted from South of the Border.

(NAI 2009/135/701: 10-11 September 1979; p.3, para.2)


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