Members of the US Congress have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Picture: Alamy).
Northern Ireland

US Congress Members Call On Johnson To 'Reverse' Troubles Amnesty Plan

A letter signed by 36 members criticises plans for a statute of limitations that would end all prosecutions for incidents up to April 1998.

Members of the US Congress have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Picture: Alamy).

Members of the US Congress have called on Boris Johnson to scrap his proposals to ban future prosecutions related to the Northern Ireland Troubles.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the US Congress members also called for the British Government to reaffirm its commitment to the Stormont House Agreement.

In the letter to Mr Johnson, the members expressed concern that the proposed legacy laws would strain the British-Irish relationship and "cement widespread feelings" that justice is being denied.

In July, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis announced plans for a statute of limitations that would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

The proposals, which Mr Johnson has previously said would allow Northern Ireland to "draw a line under the Troubles", would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

It has been widely condemned by campaigners on both sides of the Troubles and across the political divide.

The letter, led by congressmen Brendan Boyle and Brian Fitzpatrick, has been signed by 36 members.

They said it would be a "serious mistake" for the British Government to renege on its commitments laid out under the Stormont House Agreement, adding it would lead to "major setbacks" in the search for justice and reconciliation.

Murals commemorating The Troubles on the side of houses in Londonderry
Murals on the sides of houses in Londonderry.

They said they were "disappointed" that the UK Government plans to introduce new legislation that would modify the Agreement's legacy laws.

"To be clear, we strongly disapprove these proposals," they added. "We believe that they would not only prevent a pathway to justice but that they would also strip these families of their legal rights protected under European Law and the Good Friday Agreement.

"The issue of legacy killings spans across generations and any continued deprival of justice will only further deepen the wound that this history has on Britain and Ireland.

"We are concerned that these legacy laws would strain the British-Irish relationship and cement widespread feelings that justice is being denied."

The letter went on: "There is no doubt that the difficult and troubling legacy of the past must be addressed and we, as members of congress, will continue to advocate on this issue until good faith action is taken and progress is made.

"These legacy proposals require genuine reconsideration. Delivering answers for these bereaved families has been a longstanding priority for Irish-American community and those interested in global peace. We will continue to listen to these families as they await long overdue answers.

"We urge you to re-examine these proposals, reverse the decision and reaffirm your commitment to the Stormont House Agreement."

Watch: Troubles Statute of Limitations – what's the Government proposing?

They also expressed concern that the Historical Investigations Unit, set up under the 2014 Agreement, has been slow to investigate legacy cases, describing it as "stagnant".

Part of the push for a statute of limitations is a bid to prevent British Army veterans who served during the Troubles from being dragged before the courts decades later.

A Government spokesperson said: "The Government's deepest sympathies lie with all those who lost loved ones during the Troubles.

"The current system for addressing the past is not working well for anybody, most importantly victims and survivors. It is delivering neither justice nor information to the vast majority of families.

"The Government wants to deliver an approach which builds on the principles of the Stormont House Agreement and takes account of the feedback we have heard, and continue to hear, from stakeholders and those most affected.

"Obtaining information, through thorough and robust investigations, is the cornerstone of the Government's proposals. This would be conducted by an independent body and supported by full disclosure by the state.

"The Government continues to engage and reflect on what we have heard, and we are considering our next steps carefully."