Statement by the Archbishop of Armagh on Legacy Issues

The Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has issued the following statement on the UK Government’s planned approach to the Legacy of the Troubles:

“The announcement yesterday in the House of Commons of the path that the Government intends to follow in relation to Legacy issues in Northern Ireland will have created further heartbreak, frustration and anger for victims of the Troubles. The degree of suffering endured by victims over the years is not something that can be moved on from. It needs to be acknowledged in the full variety of its expression, and dealt with over the long term.

“Failure to deal with Legacy has probably been the biggest political and societal failing since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The one principle which all involved have been agreed on is that a general amnesty would be a morally empty response. Regardless of the name it goes under, a general amnesty is what the Government of the United Kingdom is now planning to put in place.

“In a repeat of a dismal pattern, once again political interests in Great Britain have been used as the criteria for settling policy in Northern Ireland. Imperfect as they may have been, the carefully worked out provisions of the Stormont House Agreement have been set aside by one of the parties to the Agreement. Of course, that means a further erosion of trust in those who have been entrusted with just and fair government.

“To believe that any process of reconciliation can be advanced by a measure that betrays the trust of victims, and of most ordinary citizens, indicates a profound ignorance of human nature and human suffering, and of the particular conditions of society in Northern Ireland.”