Getting Away with Murder

A Letter From Ireland

a Chara,

I have rewritten this letter a number of times. It is hard to find the words to describe the actions of the British government and the injustice they have imposed on bereaved families this week.  

At the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, April 30th, the British Government’s “Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act” came into full effect. Behind this innocuous title is the coverup of multiple killings.

The Act immediately closed down 38 inquests linked to 76 deaths. Families will be left without basic findings of the cause of death of their loved ones. It also closes investigations into hundreds of unresolved killings carried out over 30 years of conflict. It ends the rights of the injured and bereaved to have access to the courts. Behind these cases are families who have fought for up to 50 years for justice and truth.  

This Act has been opposed by all political parties on the Island of Ireland, by victims groups, the EU and UN Human Rights bodies, and the US Congress.

The Irish Government has now instigated a legal case in the European courts as these actions run contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Good Friday Agreement.  

The British Labour Party has committed to revoke the legislation if they come to power in the upcoming general election. The British Government has consistently acted to cover up their actions during the conflict. Families campaigned to secure disclosure, information, and inquests.

When the British could no longer frustrate the legal process they closed it down. The British Government and military have always portrayed themselves as referees and peacemakers  between two warring factions. The truth has been exposed. The pattern across cases is consistent. The British military, and agents, engaged in killings with no effective investigation, followed by years of cover-up.  

The British military was involved in establishing, arming, and directing loyalist paramilitary gangs, allowing killing to proceed and protecting agents.

The pattern across 30 years of British involvement in the conflict is consistent. They were involved in commissioning, murdering, and covering up the killing of citizens North and South. In order to continue that coverup they have closed down all investigations into all killings.

I believed that the British attempts to stall and frustrate justice were in the hope that families would give up their quest. That was never going to happen. It now appears that justice is to be denied to ensure that no living British political or military figure will end up in court or exposed for their role in their dirty war in Ireland.  

The families will continue their campaigns, and the British Government will have to defend its actions in a European court. It would be hoped that a new British Government would scrap this act and return to their previous agreements with the parties and the Irish Government.

The British Government was an actor in the conflict. The British Government should play a part in delivering justice, truth, and acknowledgment if we are to build a process of healing and reconciliation. Their actions this week are an injustice to bereaved families and an insult to all.  

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.