2 min read16 July
Exclusive: Boris Johnson will host Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin in London next week as the UK government faces growing pressure to change course on its Northern Ireland legacy proposals.
Johnson and Martin will meet in Downing Street on Tuesday, sources have told PoliticsHome, with the government’s plan to block prosecutions of former soldiers and paramilitaries accused of comitting crimes during The Troubles set to be high on the agenda.
The pair are also expected to discuss the UK and European Union’s ongoing efforts to address disruption caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol, with business groups in the province warning chaos awaits in October when various grace periods for trade from Great Britain due to expire.
The Irish government has already announced its opposition to the legacy proposals, saying they breach the terms of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement which the UK signed up to.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said they would breach the European Convention of Human Rights and result in legal challenges.
“In our view, this would be politically and legally unsustainable, and would damage relationships and trust critical to the protection of the achievements of the peace process,” Coveney wrote.
All five main political parties in Northern Ireland are also against the UK government’s proposals, arguing that it denies justice to families of victims of The Troubles.
The Northern Irish government in Stormont will be recalled for an emergency debate on Tuesday after a petition tabled by the SDLP received the thirty signatures it needed.
Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on Wednesday announced a plan to put an end to all prosecutions of people accused of crimes during The Troubles — a thirty year period of sectarian conflict which resulted in the deaths of over 3,500 people.
The de facto amnesty will apply to ex-British soldiers as well as former nationalist and loyalist paramilitaries.
Johnson said the proposals would help Northern Ireland “draw a line under” the conflict but he received a backlash from several victims’ relatives.
Kathleen Gillespie, whose husband was murdered by the IRA in 1990, said she felt “robbed” by the government’s proposals. “The people who murdered my husband are still walking free. I could be walking past them up the town any day and not know who it was,” she told Sky News.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was murdered in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombing, said in a letter to the Prime Minister: “At what point did your government lose all sight of its moral, ethical and judicial backbone?”