Because of this horrific coronavirus pandemic, families across Ireland and Britain are fearful for their loved ones, their livelihoods and our communities.
On top of this grave concern, families who lost loved ones during the conflict or who were injured now face Britain again reneging on its human rights responsibilities.
The timing of the British Government press release is deliberate. It is unethical and outrageous for a number of reasons but we will have to examine the details first and foremost as our families have not been offered any preview or been given time to prepare.
The initial information is very concerning as it would appear that this is a unilateral move by the British state to re-write the Stormont House Agreement without consulting either our political leaders in the north of Ireland or the Irish Government.
It may also be an attempt to ignore the public consultation in dealing with the legacy of the past – the families of the Time for Truth Campaign submitted nearly 15 thousand of the 17 thousand responses.
Our families had 3 simple, modest demands of Britain:
- Implement the Stormont House agreement and properly resource its mechanisms for dealing with the past, including the Historical Investigations Unit
- Fund the court’s legacy inquests as set out by the Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan
- Properly resource the Office of the Police Ombudsman
We have taken to the streets in two previous mass demonstrations and we may have to do that again when it is safe for us to meet and march.
What is certain is that the British state has today re-traumatized thousands of victims and survivors across the country yet again.
What is also certain, though, is that our families will exercise our basic human rights and demand Article 2 ECHR compliant investigations for all victims and survivors regardless of their background or creed.
It will not be up to the British state to cherry-pick which family should have a fair and just investigation. We all should be equal before the law and there should be no hierarchy of victims. That also means that there should be no preferential protections for Crown forces and its agents.
For too long, our families have known that the British state’s strategy for dealing with the legacy of the conflict has been 3-pronged: Deny, Delay and Death.
It will deny its responsibilities for as long as it can; it will delay handing over information or will force our families through the courts; or it will hope that our family members die and campaigns flounder.
The British state may try to cover up its war crimes and re-traumatize our families; but it can rest assured that our families will fight tooth and nail for truth, justice, and acknowledgement.
Northern Ireland Office Press release: UK Government sets out way forward on the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland
Irish Government Press Release: Statement by Tánaiste on UK Government Legacy Announcement