U.K. Sparks Irish Fury With Bar on Troubles-Era Prosecutions

Ireland’s government reacted with anger to a U.K. proposal to end prosecutions linked to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, saying that Britain is taking unilateral action which undermines the rule of law.

Britain will later this year 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.

”What the British government is now outlining is a unilateral position, which nobody else has signed up to,” Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney told RTE Radio.

“The Irish government cannot support that approach,” he said, adding that he will work with all parties and try to find a consensus.

The legislation will apply to former members of the British security forces as well as to ex-loyalist and republican paramilitaries, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the U.K. Parliament in London on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the plans, saying they would “enable the province of Northern Ireland to draw a line under the Troubles, to enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward.”

“The sad fact remains that there are many members of the armed services who continue to face the threat of vexatious prosecutions well into their 70s, 80s and later, and we’re finally bringing forward a solution to this problem,” he told lawmakers.

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.

Coveney said the victims would be “deeply hurt” by the policy, and it will be seen as an “amnesty for all crimes that happened pre-1998, before the Good Friday agreement, for everybody -- whether it’s the IRA, whether its loyalist paramilitary groups, whether its soldiers, or whoever.”

The move also sparked opposition from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. In a statement, DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson called it “totally unacceptable” and said it will be “rejected by everyone in Northern Ireland who stands for justice and the rule of law.”

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