Victims gather at Stormont in protest over legacy plans

Victims gather outside Parliament buildings at Stormont Credit: Pacemaker

Victims from across the community in Northern Ireland have met Government officials to make clear their opposition to plans to ban prosecutions for Troubles murders

Several victims groups held meetings with Northern Ireland Office officials at Stormont House on Thursday.

One group walked out of their meeting after only 10 minutes in protest while another staged a demonstration outside Parliament Buildings.

Kenny Donaldson from IVU Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

IVU Spokesman Kenny Donaldson said: “We have been inundated as a family of groups by hundreds upon hundreds of individuals who are hurting badly as a result of the statement made in Parliament by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland”.

“Innocent victims and survivors of terrorism need an outlet; they need to be afforded the opportunity to use their voices and to send a strong and resolute message to the UK Government that they will not be party to the final corruption of the criminal justice process.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis announced last week that he intends to introduce legislation to create a statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions for incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

The proposals, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to "draw a line under the Troubles", would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

But the plan has been heavily criticised by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland as well as the Irish Government, and a range of victims' and survivors' groups.

Among those protesting at Stormont was Co Down woman Sandra Harrison, whose 23-year-old brother Alan Johnston, a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was murdered by the IRA in 1988.

"His murderers have never been brought to justice and this amnesty that's being proposed is a total disregard not just for Alan but for all the innocent victims," she said.

"I feel the word amnesty and terrorism should not be in the same sentence, it's total disregard for his life and for all the lives who have been laid down for peace in this country.

"I know it's been over 30 years, but we still live in hope that one day a DNA sample and advances in DNA may help in Alan's case or other cases.

"So I just can't understand how the Government can even fathom what they are doing and we just cannot believe the innocent victims are being treated this way."

Co Tyrone UDR veteran David Newell, whose cousin and fellow soldier lance corporal Kenneth Newell was shot dead by the IRA in 1991, also attended the protest.

"In 30 years we've never seen justice, never and this amnesty is a total disgrace, a disgrace to people who have laid their life down for their country and have served," he said.