Conflict & Justice

Northern Ireland attorney general calls for end to Troubles prosecutions


Northern Irish protesters hold the union flag as they block the Donegall road in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on December 11, 2012 amid renewed tensions after Belfast city councillors voted not to fly the British flag all year around. Around 3,500 people were killed in the three decades of sectarian bloodshed between Northern Irish Protestants favouring continued union with Britain, and Catholics seeking a unified Ireland.



Northern Ireland's attorney general has called for an end to prosecutions against crimes committed during a violent, 30-year period known as the Troubles.

John Larkin's suggestion, though, has sparked outrage from victims' relatives and political parties, BBC reported.

Larkin said fewer cases are opened every year since representatives from Northern Ireland and Great Britain signed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and winning conviction gets more difficult with time.

"More than 15 years have passed since the Belfast Agreement, there have been very few prosecutions, and every competent criminal lawyer will tell you the prospects of conviction diminish, perhaps exponentially, with each passing year, so we are in a position now where I think we have to take stock," Larkin told the BBC.

"It strikes me that the time has come to think about putting a line, set at Good Friday 1998, with respect to prosecutions, inquests and other inquiries."

His proposal would prohibit future "police investigations, inquests and inquiries," BBC said.

Those who lost relatives during that time said Larkin is doing victims a disservice, the Independent said.

Stephen Gault's father, Samuel, was killed in the 1987 IRA Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen. 

"How dare he airbrush the innocent people who were murdered at the hands of terrorists to move things forward. I just think it's totally disgusting," Gault told the Independent.

He said he had previously spoken to Larkin about his campaign for justice.

"He said if I wanted any help with reference to Enniskillen don't be afraid to give me a shout, and now he turns round and says this?" Gault said.

"It's totally, totally disgusting — my father's murder and countless thousands of others are just being brushed under the carpet to move things forward."

The Troubles erupted in 1968 after a civil rights march in Londonderry, and centers around Northern Ireland's statehood debate.

On one side was the Protestant majority loyal to the United Kingdom, while the Catholic minority pushed to join the Republic of Ireland. Yet, it was much more than a religious conflict, according to BBC History.

More than 3,600 people are believed to have been killed during the period, and tens of thousands more injured.

Larkin suggests eliminating the Historical Enquiries Team and ending criminal prosecutions and coroner inquests prior to 1998.

He also said legislation passed since the peace deal makes investigations futile, the Associated Press said. The peace deal banned DNA evidence from crimes committed before 1998 and ensures those convicted of lenient parole.

Northern Ireland's Protestant-backed Democratic Unionists said it would "deprive" families of justice, while British Prime Minister David Cameron called it "rather dangerous," the AP said.

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