Tánaiste Micheál Martin announced that the Irish Government had decided to take an inter-state case against the UK under the European Convention of Human Rights. In a statement today, he said, “The decision by the British government not to proceed with the 2014 Stormont House Agreement and instead pursue legislation unilaterally, without effective engagement with the legitimate concerns that we, and many others, raised left us with few options.
“The British government removed the political option, and has left us only this legal avenue.”
“The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law is a specific and fundamental requirement of the Good Friday Agreement. Since the UK legislation was first tabled, the Government have been consistent that it is not compatible with the Convention.
“I used every opportunity to make my concerns known, and urged the British government to pause this legislation.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald responded saying, “I welcome confirmation that the Irish Government will take an interstate case to challenge the British Government’s Legacy Act under the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Victims and families have been stating from the outset that this cruel and shameful Act Is a flagrant breach of international human rights law.
“The British Tory Government rushed through this legislation despite the clear opposition and concerns raised by victims and families, all political parties, the Irish Government, the US, UN, the Council of Europe and human rights experts.
“It is a blatant attempt to shut the door on families’ efforts to achieve truth and justice through the courts and to give an amnesty to British state forces involved in the murder of, and serious human rights violations against, Irish citizens.
“Heartbroken families have been fighting for years, determined to get truth and justice for their loved ones. They should not have been forced to take individual legal actions against this Act, and this action by the government will now complement these challenges.
“We will stand with those families as they challenge this cruel and cynical law, and as they continue to campaign with dignity and determination for truth and justice.”
In a statement released soon after the announcement, The Pat Finucane Center said, “The Pat Finucane Centre welcome the announcement made today by the Irish Government stating that they intend to initiate an Interstate case against the British government in respect of the Legacy Bill.
“Since the legislation was first proposed, the British government ignored the concerns of political parties across these islands and ignored the concerns of the human rights community including the NI Human Rights Commissioner, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. More importantly, the British government showed complete disregard for opposition voiced by victims and survivors vehemently opposed to this legislation. Victims & survivors recognise that only the perpetrators of violence will benefit from the Legacy Act.
“We agree with the view expressed by the Irish government that they had no choice but to pursue the legal avenue, and believe this sends the strongest possible message that this legislation must and will be challenged in every possible way.”
Relatives for Justice said in a statement, ” This is most welcome news and comes after months of intense lobbying by families, NGOs, political parties and Irish America.
“All Irish citizens affected by all actors to the conflict must have their rights defended by the Irish government, this is practical defense of those rights.
“We recognise it is a move not taken lightly, but reflects the egregious position the Legacy Act has created.
“This move is in the interests of victims and survivors. It is not only a legal move, it is a humanitarian one.
“It is a move that defends the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement, in this, the year of its 25th anniversary.
It is a move that, unlike the appalling Legacy Act, defends hope and healing.”