By David Young, PA
Victims of the Troubles will return to Westminster this week as they step up their campaign against a proposed ban on future prosecutions related to the conflict.
In July, the Government announced plans for a statute of limitations that would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998.
Military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries would be protected from prosecution under the measure.
The proposals would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the measures would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles”.
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.
One group of bereaved families have secured support from politicians north and south of the border in their campaign against the proposals.
Several of those elected representatives will join the victims at a meeting in Westminster on Tuesday.
Ahead of the visit, Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in north Belfast in 1997, said: “Our Prime Minister disrespects the victims and families of terrorism by telling them that by not even trying to get justice, truth and peace and by giving an amnesty to murderers and rapists it will help bring reconciliation and help victims and families to move on. Who believes that? Not one victim I know does.
“Destroying the truth by dismantling the justice system is the action of either someone insane or a dictator hiding the state’s involvement. A Prime Minister afraid of the truth.”
Mr McCord said the victims involved in the campaign come from all sections of the community.
“Together we have got every major party on the island of Ireland to sign up to a document rejecting the proposals and supporting our cross-community group,” he said.
“Together we have created history on a divided island with those signatures.
“It was a first and we haven’t finished yet. It’s unheard of with all the parties signing the same document in agreement. Even the Good Friday Agreement didn’t have all the parties signing it. The power of doing the right thing.
“Next we go to London for the third time to continue the battle for truth and justice on Tuesday in Westminster, to meet with hopefully all the parties represented there and them standing with us and supporting not only us but all victims and in agreement with the parties from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“In almost 24 years since my son was murdered I can honestly say this group of victims are as good as any people I have ever met.
“We are not Protestant victims or Catholic victims, we are victims. I am proud of what we have achieved up to now and I’m proud to call all of them my friends.
“Decent, honourable people betrayed by a Prime Minister who has no empathy, compassion or concerns for the thousands of men, women or children murdered and some raped as well.
“We call upon all the citizens in the UK to reject these proposals, stand up to Boris Johnson and his self-serving, justice-dismantling proposals as he tries to hide the truth of the murders of thousands of innocent people.
“Simply he doesn’t care about truth or justice and these are words outside his vocabulary.”
Responding to Mr McCord’s comments, a UK Government spokeswoman said: “The current system for addressing the past in Northern Ireland is not working well for anybody, most importantly victims and survivors. It is delivering neither justice nor information to the vast majority of families.
“That is why the Government wants to focus on a new approach centred on information recovery and reconciliation. We are not proposing an amnesty and there would be no pardons for any crimes, but we must be clear that with the passage of time, the realistic prospect of successful prosecution is negligible.
“Obtaining information, through thorough and robust investigations, is the cornerstone of the Government’s proposals. This would be conducted by an independent body and supported by full disclosure by the state.
“We recognise the importance of continuing to work with victims’ groups, and all parts of the community in Northern Ireland on the way forward.
“We continue to engage and reflect on what we have heard to date, and we are considering our next steps carefully.”