Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“The paper published today by the Northern Ireland Office outlining how they intend to legislate for the Stormont House Agreement should set the alarm bells ringing with anyone who has an interest in justice. Throughout the document the NIO are at pains to stress that this is not an amnesty. However, it is clear that that will be exactly the impact of what is proposed. An amnesty is an amnesty no matter what you call it or how you dress it up.
“The Independent Commission on Information Retrieval “will be separate to the criminal justice system and information provided to it will not be admissible in court”. This means that terrorists will be able to turn up to the ICIR and tell them whatever self-serving account of an incident they wish without any fear of it being used against them. It will therefore become a vehicle which will permit a terrorist friendly re-writing of history with no fear of those who tell their stories being brought before the courts.
“The Government may claim that this is not an amnesty and that if other evidence emerges they can still face prosecution. However, imagine if a Nazi war criminal boasted of his crimes and his boasts couldn’t be used against him. There would be outrage and rightly so. Yet this is exactly what the proposed arrangements would allow the perpetrators of Enniskillen, Bloody Friday, La Mon and numerous other massacres in Northern Ireland to do.
“It is highly significant that while the Bill will deal largely with matters which are devolved to Stormont it will nonetheless pass though Westminster. This was an issue I challenged the Justice Minister about back in March. It is clear to me that the local parties want to be able to claim a degree of deniability in relation to this issue. By-passing Stormont means that the legislation will receive much less attention locally and permits the parties to claim that this was all the work of nasty Westminster. The reality is, of course, that the local parties lobbied for the legislation to go through Westminster for precisely that reason.
“In one respect, however, the proposals are at least an improvement on Haass as they make clear that the HU will not be prohibited from recruiting people who have previously served in policing or security roles in Northern Ireland.”