United condemnation of Larkin’s prosecutions proposals

November 25, 2013

Victims’ groups and political parties in Northern Ireland have united in their condemnation of NI attorney general John Larkin’s calls for an end to prosecutions for Troubles-related killings.

Larkin’s controversial views have come under heavy criticism from all quarters, and pressure was mounting last week for the executives’ most senior legal advisor to reconsider his proposals to end further investigations into killings and  offences committed before the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.That means all deaths caused by paramilitaries, police or the Army.

Mr Larkin maintained his proposal was not a formal amnesty, but was a logical consequence of the agreement. He highlighted the low number of prosecutions in the 15 years since the Good Friday Agreement and said the prospects of conviction diminish with each passing year. He said the time had come to take stock and “think about putting a line, set at Good Friday 1998, with respect to prosecutions, inquests and other inquiries.”

His proposal would also mean the abolition of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), the body set up to review killings during the Troubles.

With over 3,500 people killed during three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, many feel that Mr Larkin’s ideas are an attempt to “sweep the past under the carpet.” There has been widespread shock at his lack of consultation with victims before publicly airing his views, and survivors and victims of state and paramilitary violence during the Troubles have heavily criticised his suggestions, with many accusing him of depriving victims of seeking justice.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron and Tanaiste Enda Kenny have also expressed their opposition to his recommendations. Mr Cameron distanced himself from Larkin’s comments saying he believed a move to end any further investigations would be “rather dangerous.”

Northern Ireland’s main political parties have all come together in voicing their opposition to the attorney general’s ideas, with the DUP stating that, in addition to bypassing victims’ groups, Mr Larkin had also failed to consult the Stormont Executive about his proposals before making them public.

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Dominic Bradley branded Larkin’s suggestions “totally unacceptable” and said his decision to publicise his views signified his “intrusion into the political arena.”

“Newry and Armagh is a constituency which suffered many horrible murders during the course of The Troubles.  We have many victims who are still seeking truth and justice, and who will never give up their quest,” said Bradley.

“We must, in all we do and say, respect their right to justice, their right to truth under the law. To adopt the Attorney General’s proposal would be to deny victims and their families their right to truth and justice and give a de facto amnesty to those who murdered their loved ones.”I am quite concerned about the Attorney General’s intrusion into the political arena – especially when he speaks without consulting those for whom his words have huge and serious implications.  His intrusion and utterances in this instance have been extremely disturbing and cast serious doubt on his good judgement – he should reflect on his position.”