Northern Ireland: Thousands of relatives of Troubles victims demand full investigation into violence

January 20, 2021

Thousands of bereaved relatives have urged the British and Irish governments to open full investigations into the decades of violence known as The Troubles.

Some 3,500 relatives have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish premier Micheal Martin urging them to implement a 2014 agreement that included setting up an independent team of detectives to pursue fresh prosecutions.

The letter, to be published in newspapers in Belfast and the US, says: "We are writing to you as relatives bereaved during the conflict to seek your assurances that our human rights as victims will no longer be disregarded or denied.

"The peace process has repeatedly failed to deliver on our rights to truth, justice and accountability."

More than 3,600 people were killed and thousands injured during republican and loyalist violence, and in some cases through the actions of the police and British Army.

The 2014 Stormont House proposals included a new independent investigation unit to re-examine all unsolved killings and a separate truth recovery mechanism to enable families to gain answers in cases where prosecutions are unlikely.

But in March, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said ministers intended to move away from the Stormont House model.

They would prefer a paper review exercise, he announced, after which most unsolved cases would be closed and a new law passed to prevent the investigations from being reopened.

Mark Thompson, chief executive of Belfast-based lobby group Relatives for Justice, said about half of those who signed the open letter are aged 35 and under.

"This represents the current and future generations and underlines the ongoing trauma and intergenerational impact that the killing of a relative has also had on surviving families," he said.

"In many instances this younger generation are the very people who are raising these unsolved killings and engaged in legal processes on behalf of those who died without ever seeing truth or justice."

Baroness Nuala O'Loan, the former police ombudsman who investigated complaints against police in Northern Ireland, said the British government should fund a victims' payment scheme for the most severely injured.

It is due to be launched in March, but Stormont ministers are seeking more financial commitment from their UK counterparts.

Baroness O'Loan said: "The position remains at stalemate. This is deeply unfair to the surviving victims of the Troubles for whom a pension has been legislated but not delivered.

"It is ludicrous and deeply immoral to think of placing the resource burden of legacy solutions on a small devolved region."

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