Ireland
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Irish government must respond to ‘reckless’ Troubles Legacy Act – Blaney

Donegal Senator Niall Blaney has called on the government to speak out on a controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill which will prevent investigations into Troubles-related killings.

There has been widespread opposition to the bill by political parties in Northern Ireland, and by victims and survivors of the Troubles.

Fianna Fáil Senator and Spokesperson on Northern Ireland, Niall Blaney, highlighted in Seanad Éireann the urgent need for the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, to make a statement on the Government’s response to the UK Government’s Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act.

Earlier this summer, the Tánaiste said he feared the bill would prevent lasting reconciliation. He sought legal advice on the situation regarding the bill last month.

Senator Blaney has met with the UK Government’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Lord Caine, on three occasions in recent times to discuss the Legacy Act, stressing that it should have victims and their families front and centre.

Despite these efforts, and the near-unanimous level of opposition to the Act in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK, the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and US Representatives, these concerns have been ignored by the UK Government.

Senator Blaney said: “I have been highlighting issues with the Legacy Bill for some time, having met with Lord Caine on numerous occasions to discuss the fact that the Bill is a reckless piece of legislation that, instead of recognising the concerns of individual victims of the Troubles and their families, does the opposite. It is simply not right that victims and their families are being left with no other avenue than to take cases themselves.

“The discussions with Lord Caine have, unfortunately, been ignored. There is an urgent need for Government to respond to the Bill and take a state case against the UK government, in doing so standing up for the human rights that are at the centre of the Good Friday Agreement and the reconciliation process that we worked so hard to progress.”

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for International Development and Diaspora, Sean Fleming, responded to Senator Blaney in Seanad Éireann, saying: “Respect for the European Convention on Human Rights is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland. Its implementation in Northern Ireland law is a specific requirement of the Good Friday Agreement. This Act risks undermining the fundamental rights of the people of Northern Ireland. In so doing, it damages the process of reconciliation, which we have worked so hard to progress.”

Senator Blaney agreed with Minister Fleming’s response and asked for a timeline on the Government’s next steps, saying that “time is of the essence.”