“This Bill is about the British government denying families basic legal rights and represents a full-frontal assault on basic legal process and justice.”
By Michelle Gildernew MP
The British Government’s Legacy Bill is evidence that the British government has much, much more to conceal and cover-up from their dirty war in Ireland.
Be in no doubt the British government’s Legacy Bill is about; amnesties for state forces, denying investigations, avoiding accountability and cover-up.
At its core this Legacy Bill prioritises the demands of the British military lobby above those of victims.
The mask slipped when British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace recently talked about the Bill will end the current “merry-go-round” of court cases.
Let me make it clear to Ben Wallace that there is no merry ground. This Bill is about the British government denying families basic legal rights and represents a full-frontal assault on basic legal process and justice.
This Bill will in law deny any family their legal right to an investigation in line with human rights law, or an inquest, public inquiry, or ability to pursue a civil action. And it is being forced through despite the strong opposition from victims and families, all the political parties on our island, churches, human rights experts and senior political figures in the EU, US and UN.
These are the actions of a rogue state who fears the truth that basic legal process will deliver for families. The British government intent is to protect both those in uniform and those in suits in Whitehall and Downing Street who were involved in the killing of Irish citizens.
This cruel and callous legislation is designed to shut down efforts to get justice through the courts, and to let British state forces who killed Irish citizens off the hook.
The British government should scrap this flawed Bill which will deny truth and justice to thousands of victims and families.
And I am reiterating Sinn Féin’s call for an urgent summit involving the British and Irish governments and political parties on the issue of legacy.
If the British government is serious about upholding the legal right of victims and families to truth and justice, they will stop the passage of the Legacy Bill to allow for dialogue.
The legacy mechanisms were agreed by the main political parties, the Irish government and the British government at Stormont House in 2014, they must be implemented in a human rights compliant manner. The British government’s attempt to substitute the truth for a so-called official narrative, to whitewash Britain’s dirty war, and to evade justice has no support in Ireland.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should remember that the powerful have never stopped victims and families campaigning for the truth.
That is evident from the powerful and unwavering campaign fought by the McAnespie family for over three decades.
Aidan McAnespie was brutally shot dead by a British soldier while walking to his local Aghaloo Gaelic ground in Aughnacloy in 1988. For over 34 years, his family have faced down delays, lies and cover-up by the British state, and his mother and father, and his sister Eilish, have died without ever seeing justice.
A High Court judge acknowledged in November that the soldier had given a ‘deliberately false account’ of what happened on that day and was guilty of Aidan’s manslaughter.
This case offers hope to other families that accountability is possible, and the door needs to be left open to access truth and justice through the courts.
That is why, together, we must oppose the British Government Legacy Bill at every turn. Every avenue to give victims and families the answers they want and deserve must be left open to them.
Sinn Féin will continue to support victims and families on their ongoing campaigns for truth and justice.