The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill concluded its passage through the UK Parliament on Tuesday, September 12 and now heads for Royal Assent to become British law.
The legislation would end new Troubles-era cases and inquests and offer conditional amnesty to those accused of killings.
A date for Royal Assent has yet to be confirmed.
The Northern Ireland (Troubles & Reconciliation) Bill today concluded its Parliamentary passage.
The Bill will now become law in due course following Royal Assent.— Northern Ireland Office (@NIOgov) September 12, 2023
The contentious piece of legislation has the rare distinction of uniting Northern Ireland’s main political parties, who all oppose it. It is also opposed by victims and victims' groups, the Irish government, the majority of the UK public, and further afield by Irish American politicians and groups. The UN has also signaled concerns.
At Monday's unveiling of funding for PEACEPLUS, Northern Ireland's Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris acknowledged the opposition to the Bill, but said: "no one has an alternative for what could possibly replace it, and no one can tell me that the current situation that has been running for the last 25 years has been satisfactory to the families of victims either."
On Tuesday, consideration of Commons amendments to the Bill took place in the House of Lords.
Speaking on Tuesday, Lord Jonathan Caine, signaling his and the Conservative party's support for the legislation, said: "This legislation will provide more information to more people in a shorter timeframe than is possible under current mechanisms."
Lord Paul Murphy, from the Labour Party, which opposes the Bill, described the Bill as "friendless."
"In effect, it has no support in Northern Ireland at all," Murphy said in the House of Lords.
"All my experience of Northern Ireland over the years is that, where there is no support for a Bill such as this, from all communities in Northern Ireland, it will not work. There should have been consensus.”
He added: "The right place for this to be debated and discussed is Belfast, not London, so put it on hold.
"If that does not happen, a future Labour Government will undoubtedly repeal this legislation.”
Lord Malcolm Bruce of the Liberal Democrats pointed out that while the Bill has been improved, "it does not satisfy anybody any more than it did at the beginning.
"Serious questions remain as to whether it accords with international human rights. We know that the Government believe it does, but others disagree."
Lord Peter Weir, a member of the DUP, said the legislation "fundamentally lets down victims and creates a situation in which justice is corrupted.”
Baroness Margaret Ritchie, also a member of the Labour Party, said contents of the Bill ”represent a denial of basic human rights—access to justice and truth, the very things that victims and survivors have yearned for over many years.”
She said that she was "pleased" to hear that a future Labour Government would repeal the Act. "I look forward to that day, because I know where I stand: it is with the victims and survivors, right across the board.”
Still, the motion passed in the House of Lords on Tuesday and now heads for Royal Assent.
Later on Tuesday, the UN Human Rights office reiterated its concerns about the Bill that it violates the UK's international human rights obligations and urged its reconsideration.
We deeply regret the passage of the Northern Ireland Troubles Bill despite concerns by @volker_turk & many others that it violates the #UK’s int’l human rights obligations. We urge its reconsideration & call for victims’ rights to be central in addressing the Troubles’ legacy. https://t.co/bLmNFlqY3Q— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) September 12, 2023
On Wednesday, the day after the Bill completed its UK Parliamentary passage, the Irish NGO Relatives for Justice staged a protest at Belfast's Waterfront Centre, where politicians, including Heaton-Harris, were gathering for the Northern Ireland Investment Summit.
"These rogues should not be able to act as normal in Belfast city given what they and their Tory government have done to victims and survivors," the group said on Wednesday morning announcing the protest. "Bring a banner or placard or picture of your loved one."