The UK government introduced amendments to its controversial Northern Ireland Troubles legacy legislation this week, prompting criticism from Irish American groups.

“The Government has consistently stated that it would continue constructive dialogue in order to alleviate concerns and strengthen the Bill," Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said on June 8.

"That is why we have published a number of significant amendments that directly address a number of key concerns raised by interested parties.

“This includes amendments on the conduct of reviews, compliance with Convention Rights, the independence of the Commission, conditional immunity, and ongoing legal processes.

“We remain absolutely committed to making legislative progress so that the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) can be established, and begin delivering better outcomes for those most affected by the Troubles, as swiftly as possible.”

The amendments were announced ahead of the Report Stage of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, scheduled to proceed in the House of Lords later this month.

These amendments reflect the extensive engagement that has taken place.

We remain committed to working with all interested parties on their concerns, and how they might be addressed.

— Chris Heaton-Harris MP (@chhcalling) June 9, 2023

"It is time for the United States to help its friend overcome this 'sorry state of affairs'"

Daniel O’Connell, National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), said in a statement on Thursday, June 15 how the UK is pushing for the "irresponsible and reprehensible" legislation after several formal apologies relating to The Troubles.

O'Connell drew attention to this week's PSNI apology to Northern Ireland's 'Hooded Men,' last year's apology from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre, Prime Minister David Cameron's 2012 apology to the family of Patrick Finucane, and the 2010 apology to the victims of Bloody Sunday.

"These apologies have a common thread," O'Connell said, "the United Kingdom failed to live up to the expected standards of a modern, democratic state and recognition of the unjustifiable pain and suffering of families as they had to fight for the justice that should have been theirs by right.

"The standard boilerplate of these parliamentary acts of contrition invariably contains a platitude that an apology is not enough to undo the suffering the victims' families have endured."

O'Connell continued: "Yet, hypocritically, the United Kingdom seeks to institutionalize vapid apologies as a substitute for justice by enacting its 'Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.'

"Britain further seeks to evade responsibility and its commitments under international law and treaty by advancing its Legacy Bill.

"At its most optimistic implementation, this bill would institutionalize empty apologies as a substitute for justice.

"The bill is predicated on the implausible belief that perpetrators who, after successfully hiding in the shadows of injustice for decades, have sudden pangs of conscience and, more cynically, would halt future civil cases and inquests linked to killings during the conflict.

"Insipid apologies would become standard United Kingdom operating procedure."

O'Connell continued: "As a close friend and ally, it is time for the United States to help its friend overcome this 'sorry state of affairs.'

"As Americans, we have a responsibility to condemn human rights abuses and seek justice wherever it may be lacking.

"It is disheartening to witness the UK government attempting to erase its historical responsibility for similar acts while we stand united in condemning atrocities committed by other nations.

"This silence on abuses in Northern Ireland undermines the credibility of our relationship and tarnishes the moral high ground we strive to uphold."

"The time has come for the Administration to publically condemn the proposed 'Legacy and Reconciliation Act'"

In a separate statement on Thursday, the US-based Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement urged the White House to challenge the UK decision to advance the proposed legacy legislation.

The Ad Hoc Committee said it has written to key leaders in the Biden Administration, including the National Security Council, urging the Administration to promptly and publicly oppose passage of the so-called “Legacy and Reconciliation Act” by the UK Parliament.

Congressman James Walsh, Co-Chair of the Committee, said: “In our view, the time for an expression of public opposition is especially urgent in light of the proposed Act’s incompatibility with the Good Friday Agreement and international law and the opposition of all political parties and civil society in Northern Ireland.

"We agree with the highly respected, non-sectarian, Northern Ireland Committee on the Administration of Justice, which characterized the 'game-changing amendments' as 'smoke and mirrors' that addressed none of the Legacy Bill’s principal flaws and in certain instances have made the legislation worse.”

Congressman Bruce Morrison, Ad Hoc Co-Chair, said: “The proposed final amendments to this unacceptable legislation were not announced until after Prime Minister Sunak’s just-concluded visit to the United States. This sleight-of-hand political move seems unbecoming for a Prime Minister’s Office that touts its special relationship with the United States and is eager to conclude a trade deal.

"Twenty-five years on, the GFA remains one of the signal achievements of American diplomacy. It would be tragic if on this anniversary the core of this achievement was undone without the United States taking a public stand”

The Ad Hoc Committee has three primary concerns regarding the proposed Legacy legislation: that it violates the Good Friday Agreement and international human rights law, that it is uniformly opposed in Northern Ireland, and that the proposed legislation "does nothing to allay these uniformly expressed concerns."

Cong. Morrison concluded: “For all these reasons, the Ad Hoc Committee believes the time has come for the Administration to publically condemn the proposed Legacy and Reconciliation Act' as it has done privately.

"The Biden Administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to help the UK government in Northern Ireland from a recent Presidential visit to the appointment of Cong. Joe Kennedy III as a Special Presidential Envoy.

"However, there comes a time when the Administration needs to put aside government protocol and stand up and protect the values that are at the core of the GFA and that comes down to truth, justice, and reconciliation.”

@HocGfa⁩ is urgently encouraging Biden Administration to publicly take issue with proposed UK legacy legislation which is at final report stage on 6/21 in the House of Lords. Bad for victims, bad for justice. ⁦⁦@CongBoyle⁩ ⁦@RepRichardNeal⁩ ⁦

— Ad Hoc Committee to Protect GFA (@HocGfa) June 15, 2023