Troubles immunity only for those who co-operate with information retrieval body

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Immunity for Troubles-related crime will depend on individuals co-operating with an information retrieval body, it has emerged.

There was outrage last year when the Government unveiled proposals to offer an effective amnesty for Troubles offences.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill appears to have been tweaked in response to the almost universal opposition to the original proposals.

It is described as being aimed at providing better outcomes for victims, survivors and veterans.

Details outlined in the Queen’s speech revealed the focus remains on ending what the Government terms the “cycle of investigations that has failed both victims and veterans”.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has a legacy workload of more than 900 cases (Niall Carson/PA)

(PA Archive)

However, immunity for individuals is proposed to depend on their co-operation with a new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.

The new body aims to help individuals and family members to seek and receive information about Troubles-related deaths and serious injuries.

It is also designed to produce an historical record of what is known in relation to every death that occurred during the Troubles.

The Government described having “listened carefully” to responses to the original proposals.

As a result, they say a model where immunity is “only provided to individuals who co-operate with the new commission provides the best route to give victims and their families the answers they have sought for years as well as giving our veterans the certainty they deserve”.

The tweaked proposals leave open the route of prosecution if individuals are not deemed to have earned their immunity.

The Bill is to extend and apply in the main across the UK, with some provisions extending and applying to Northern Ireland only.

More than 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles, including over 1,000 members of the security forces.

Most of the deaths are attributed to republican paramilitaries while 30% are blamed on loyalist paramilitaries, and 10% attributed to the security forces.

In the Queen’s Speech, it was noted the currently legacy workload for the Police Service of Northern Ireland is more than 900 cases involving 1,200 deaths.

It concluded using limited resources to pursue a small number of cases to prosecution means only a tiny number of families stand even a chance of seeing someone prosecuted over the death of their loved one.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted the Government’s approach struck the right balance.

“We have listened to not just the parties but the victims’ sector, veterans, individuals, organisations from across civil society,” the spokesman said.

“The previous approach was not working. We believe that this will help with effective information recovery which provides answers for families and delivers on our commitments for Northern Ireland.”

The Irish deputy premier welcomed the announcement that immunity for Troubles-related crime will depend on individuals co-operating with an information retrieval body.

“I think it’s good news that they’ve abandoned plans for a blanket amnesty for British soldiers and terrorists who may have been involved in crimes in Northern Ireland and elsewhere,” Tanaiste Leo Varadkar told RTE radio.

“These are new proposals. I think it’s very important that the British government should now engage with us and, in particular, engage with the parties in Northern Ireland and the victims’ groups.”

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