United Kingdom

Amnesty lets IRA dodge justice for attacks on mainland

Controversial plans to ban all prosecutions relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland would also cover unsolved IRA attacks on the British mainland, it has emerged.

The Government proposals, leaked last week, would exempt soldiers as well as terrorists from being put on trial over incidents which occurred prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

But it has now emerged the amnesty would also apply to incidents outside of Northern Ireland, such as the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings, which killed 21 people.

Hundreds of bikers rode through London on Saturday as part of a rally campaigning for protection against prosecution for soldiers involved in the Troubles – something the Daily Mail has long called for

One of the most contentious elements of the 1998 peace deal allowed hundreds of terrorists serving prison sentences in Northern Ireland to walk free under an early release scheme.

However, this did not apply to those convicted of attacks on the UK mainland.

Asked whether the proposed statute of limitations would apply to the Birmingham pub bombings and other attacks in England and elsewhere, a Government source said: ‘Any potential statute of limitations would apply to all Troubles-related deaths.’

It comes as hundreds of bikers rode through London on Saturday as part of a rally campaigning for protection against prosecution for soldiers involved in the Troubles – something the Daily Mail has long called for.

The Government is yet to spell out firm details of the leaked proposals aimed at helping to draw a line under the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland.

It has now emerged the amnesty would also apply to incidents outside of Northern Ireland, such as the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings, which killed 21 people

But ministers are also assessing whether they could stop cases already before the courts. In November, a 65-year-old man was arrested by counter-terror police at his home in Belfast in connection with the Birmingham attacks. An inquest in 2019 ruled the victims were unlawfully killed.

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in the atrocity, called the proposals a ‘disgrace’.

‘Murder is murder and these people should be brought to justice,’ she said. ‘We’ve had 47 years and waiting – and here they are kicking us again to give another amnesty to terrorists.

‘Why does the Government want to allow despicable murderers to walk free?’ The proposals also include a ‘truth and reconciliation’ process encouraging those on all sides to talk about historical incidents without risk of prosecution.

Details of the plans emerged after two elderly paratroopers accused of killing an Official IRA commander in 1972 were allowed to walk free last week. 

Following a five-year legal ordeal, a murder trial against the veterans – known as Soldiers A and C – collapsed after just six days when the judge ruled crucial evidence inadmissible.

The fiasco prompted a renewed call to review cases against elderly former troops who served in Northern Ireland, but victims’ groups have rounded on plans for an amnesty which would also see terrorists cleared.

A Government source said: ‘A statute of limitations is one of the things under consideration. It would be a way to encourage greater disclosure of information for victims’ families and encourage meaningful efforts towards reconciliation.’

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