The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill is set to become British law after it passed a vote in Westminster today, Wednesday, September 6.
MPs in the UK's House of Commons voted 288 to 205 to reject amendments introduced in the House of Lords on Tuesday which would have altered the conditions required for a perpetrator to receive immunity for prosecution and included consent from victims’ families.
The winning vote on Wednesday came from 286 Conservatives and two Independents.
Voting against the motion to disagree were 146 members from the Labour Party, six of the members from Northern Ireland's DUP, and all of the sitting MPs of Northern Ireland's SDLP and Alliance parties.
The Bill will return to the House of Lords on September 12, but, as the Irish Times notes, parliamentary convention means it will not be opposed, and will instead proceed to receive royal assent and become law.
Introduced in May 2022, the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill "ends new Troubles-era cases and inquests and offers conditional amnesty to those accused of killings," according to the BBC.
The legislation has been roundly opposed by all of Northern Ireland's political parties, victims and victims groups, Irish government officials, US politicians, Irish American groups, the majority of the UK public, and human rights groups.
"Denial of human rights"
Speaking after the Bill passed through Westminster on Wednesday, Sinn Féin MP John Finucane said: "It is absolutely cynical and cruel that the British Government is forcing this bill through despite clear opposition from victims, all the political parties in this island, human rights experts, churches, the US, UN, EU and the Irish Government."
Finucane said he was calling upon the Irish government "to confront this denial of human rights and breach of international human rights law through an interstate case and international action against the British government.”
The British govt’s Legacy Bill is soon to become law, despite the universal opposition to it in Ireland & internationally.
This legislation can’t & won’t deliver for families & it needs to be continually challenged.
An inter-state challenge by the Irish government against this… pic.twitter.com/5cxJMtAkt3— John Finucane MP (@johnfinucane) September 6, 2023
SDLP MP Colum Eastwood said in the House of Commons on Wednesday: "I have never been so angry or ashamed at a decision taken by a legislature on these islands."
Eastwood said he believes there is "a moral obligation on the Irish Government to step up and step in with legal action.
"The British Government doesn’t care about the rights of victims but the international human rights standards that we all enjoy must be defended."
The British government should be ashamed today as they force through their flawed, immoral legacy bill.
This bill protects those who committed heinous crimes and removes any path to truth and justice for victims and their families.
The Tories should hang their heads in shame. pic.twitter.com/vq9qr0zOzS— Colum Eastwood 🇺🇦 (@columeastwood) September 6, 2023
Alliance MP Stephen Farry highlighted how the bill is non-compliant with human rights standards.
The shameful Legacy Bill is opposed by all NI political parties, and critically, doesn't have support of victims groups. Today, I highlighted the non-compliance with human rights standards and the inevitability of legal challenges. https://t.co/SaPtDnoE7N— Stephen Farry MP (@StephenFarryMP) September 6, 2023
DUP MP Nigel Dodds said of the bill: “We’re opposed to it.”
"This is a mistake"
Speaking on Wednesday, Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "The Irish government's position has been very clear on this all along; we think this is a mistake.
"This is the wrong way to go about dealing with legacy issues in Northern Ireland.
"There aren't many things at all that the five main parties in Northern Ireland agree on, but they all agree this is wrong and this is not victim-centered and not human rights proofed."
He continued: "What we're doing now is assessing legal advice, the Attorney General is preparing some legal advice on what the strength would be of us taking a case to the European courts on human rights essentially saying this bill, this act is not compliant with the European convention on human rights of which the United Kingdom is the secretary.
"I will make a decision on whether or not we pursue a case in the coming weeks and that's something the Tanaiste and I will have to talk about, probably next week."
"Dark day for justice"
Elsewhere, Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Deputy Director, said on Wednesday: “Today marks a dark day for justice.
"Despite huge opposition, the UK government is pushing through a law that does nothing but absolve those responsible for conflict-related abuses - and shamefully, all under the guise of reconciliation.
“It is outrageous that the UK government has so dismissively betrayed victims - only adding to their long-standing trauma with a law they so overwhelmingly rejected.
“It will now be over to the courts to right this historic wrong. Victims must not shoulder the burden of legal challenge alone. The Irish government must now follow through with their opposition to this bill and make a firm and unequivocal commitment to take an interstate case. All eyes are on their next move.
“The fight is not over: Amnesty will continue to stand with victims to have their rights vindicated.”
BREAKING: The UK Government’s callous #TroublesBill is set to pass*
It blocks victims from getting justice.
It prioritises perpetrators.
It causes further pain to grieving families.
The Bill must be challenged. 🧵 pic.twitter.com/vpjrb3xQW8— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) September 6, 2023
Meanwhile, Relatives for Justice, an Irish NGO that is also opposed to the legislation, has called upon people around the world to light a candle on Wednesday night in memory of the victims.
We are #NeverGivingUp— Relatives 4 Justice #NeverGivingUp (@RelsForJustice) September 6, 2023
Friends, as the Legacy Legislation passes Westminster today as expected, we are reaching out to send a message of solidarity to every single bereaved family. Tonight at 9pm we will light a candle in our windows, at our loved ones' graves, in places special… pic.twitter.com/URisPteC4I