The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP, is “dangerously deluded” if he thinks that his proposal to permanently close the vast majority of Troubles related murder cases will lead to reconciliation or deliver for victims, the CEO of the WAVE Trauma Centre has said.
WAVE is the largest cross community victims and survivors support group in Northern Ireland.
Sandra Peake was commenting as speculation mounts that the Government is about to introduce legacy legislation based on proposals contained in a two page Written Ministerial Statement on 18th March 2020 which revealed that the Government had taken a unilateral decision to abandon the Stormont House Agreement of December 2014.
Ms Peake said: “When WAVE spoke with the Secretary of State on 19th March he promised there would be what he described as ‘intensive engagement’ on the issues set out in the two page Written Ministerial Statement. We have heard absolutely nothing from him since then”.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee opened an investigation into the Government’s new proposals in April 2020.
In a letter to the Committee on 11th September the Secretary of State wrote that it would not be appropriate for him to give evidence to the Committee because ‘…we (the Northern Ireland Office) are currently at an important stage of policy consideration, including sensitive engagement with key stakeholders through September’.
Ms Peake continued: “It would be interesting to know who beyond his back bench colleagues that the Secretary of State regards as ‘key stakeholders’.
“It is clear from the briefings being given to media in Great Britain that the focus remains on protecting veterans by closing forever as many Troubles related cases as possible following a speedy desk top review.
“The fact that this de facto amnesty will also include the vast majority of murders carried out by paramilitaries is the price that bereaved families in Northern Ireland and beyond will be made to pay.
“If the Secretary of State thinks that telling bereaved victims and survivors that what happened to their loved ones will no longer be a matter for the state will lead to reconciliation then he is dangerously deluded.”
A letter signed by Ms Peake and five other men and women connected with WAVE who have been bereaved during the Troubles and whose loved ones cases’ remain unresolved has been sent to MPs setting out serious concerns about the Government’s handling of legacy.
The letter states that the permanent closure of unresolved cases would ‘be without legal precedent’and would be a ‘a devastating blow to all those bereaved’.
‘These families deserve to be acknowledged, to be heard and it is time we explained as best as we can what happened to their loved ones,’ the letter states, noting that this ‘includes the families of murdered members of the security forces who suffer immeasurably like all others’.
‘This is about giving all families the information that we would normally assume, to some degree at least, would have been provided at the time as it would elsewhere in the UK.
‘But in too many cases in Northern Ireland it was not.
‘If what is set out in the Written Ministerial Statement of 18th March, which to date is the only information we have to go on, is enacted it will do untold damage not only to thousands of victims and survivors, but also to the reputation of the UK as guarantor of the rights of some of the most vulnerable in our society.’
Picture: Brandon Lewis. (Jay Allen/Crown Copyright).