U.K. Risks Irish Fury With Law to Halt Troubles Prosecutions

The U.K. is preparing a new law ending prosecutions linked to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a move that risks straining already frayed relations with Dublin.

The government plans to introduce a statute of limitations applying to all cases before 1998, the year the Good Friday Agreement largely ended three decades of violence in the province, according to two people familiar with the decision.

In a statement to Parliament on Wednesday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis will set out how the amnesty will apply to former members of the British security forces as well as to ex-loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

The decision will please some in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party as it was a manifesto commitment end “unfair” prosecutions of army veterans who served in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month, prosecutors dropped their case against two British army veterans facing murder charges over incidents in Londonderry, also known as Derry, in 1972.

Not Settled

But Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, said the matter is not settled and that his government has a “very different view.”

The U.K. opposition Labour Party released a letter from Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham, central England, which killed 21.

‘Obscene Legislation’

“If one of your loved ones was blown up beyond recognition,” Hambleton wrote in the letter addressed to Johnson, “would you be so quick to agree to such obscene legislation being implemented?”

In 2014, the U.K. and Irish governments -- along with most political parties in Northern Ireland -- reached a deal that included provisions to investigate outstanding crimes associated with the conflict, which claimed 3,500 lives on both sides.

The U.K.’s proposed legislation comes at a sensitive time for relations between London and Dublin. Tensions between the two governments have been growing since Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

This year, Northern Ireland saw some its worst violence in years after trade between the province and the rest of the U.K was disrupted by part of the Brexit deal. Both sides are still trying to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.