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Sinn Fein: British Government ‘covering up’ state killings role

UK News | Published:

Some MPs and veterans have pressed for a statute of limitations which would protect former soldiers from prosecution.

The British Government is trying to “cover up” its role in state killings, Sinn Fein has claimed.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is considering the shape of new structures investigating the toxic legacy of unresolved deaths during the 30-year conflict.

Some MPs and veterans have pressed for a statute of limitations which would protect former soldiers from prosecution.

Ms Bradley has said she does not support the measure and it was omitted from her recent consultation on addressing the past.

Sinn Fein’s local government election manifesto said: “The British Government has sought to cover up its role in the deaths of many Irish citizens and is seeking to introduce an amnesty for those it directed to carry out such killings.

“Sinn Fein will continue to oppose the British Government’s policy on this issue and demand that the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House are implemented in a human rights-compliant manner.”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has said the Ministry of Defence is working across Government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure members of the Armed Forces are not treated unfairly.

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He pledged the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues and said serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.

Bloody Sunday bike protest
On Friday thousands of motor bikers demonstrated outside Parliament against the legal action facing former Soldier F and urged the Government to step in to protect veterans from prosecution (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

On Friday thousands of motor bikers demonstrated outside Parliament against the legal action and urged the Government to step in to protect veterans from prosecution.

A statute of limitations is backed by many Conservative backbenchers, including some who are former soldiers.

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Many unionists in Northern Ireland have expressed concern it could lead to an amnesty for former republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

Sinn Fein launched its manifesto for next month’s local council elections in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

It focused on familiar themes like the “political vandalism” of Brexit, Tory austerity and the need to prepare for a United Ireland.

Leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “Brexit has added to uncertainty and instability.

“Under the Tory and DUP pact funding for health and public services isn’t even enough to stand still and now they seek to impose Brexit against the will of the people.

“This is an unprecedented act of political vandalism. This election is an opportunity to say time is up on Brexit, time is up on the DUP/Tory cuts.”

Sinn Fein is standing 400 candidates across the island of Ireland in the local government elections, including 155 in Northern Ireland.

The party would ban zero-hour contracts which it said had created insecurity and uncertainty for workers.

It urged the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to do more for communities.

“While PSNI has made progress in working with other statutory agencies such as health boards and social services in order to provide better outcomes for vulnerable people, we are concerned that the police are not properly engaging with local communities and community organisations to find local solutions to problems,” it said.

A UK Government spokesman said: “The Government’s 2017 NI manifesto made clear: ‘We continue to believe that any approach to the past must be fully consistent with the rule of law. Conservatives in government have consistently said that we will not introduce amnesties or immunities from prosecution. The new legacy bodies will have the needs of victims and survivors at their heart’.

“This position was very recently restated in the Government’s response to an e-petition to Parliament on immunity for soldiers which sets out: ‘This Government believes in the rule of law. Where there is evidence of wrongdoing it is right that this should be investigated and, where the evidence exists, for prosecutions to follow. We do not support amnesties or immunity from prosecution’.

“This response also reasserts the Government’s commitment to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.”

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