Sixteen Members of Congress have joined in a bipartisan letter to British Ambassador Kim Darroch, expressing concerns about hundreds of families still waiting for legacy truth and justice. The bipartisan Congressional initiative, follows a recent visit by Mark Thompson of Relatives For Justice. The tour was organized by New York State Ancient Order of Hibernians, and supported by an array of Irish-American organizations including the Irish American Unity Conference and Brehon Law Society.
The Members of Congress cited issues including the denial of funding for Legacy Inquests and investigations, misuse of national security to block information ,and proposals of a statute of limitations amnesty.
New York State AOH Freedom for All Ireland Chair Martin Galvin noted:
“We welcome this Congressional scrutiny and will monitor and provide information in relation to the British government’s response. It seems that as victims use crown justice mechanisms to get legacy truth ,the British are starving their own courts, inquest judges and Ombudsman investigations of funding while moving towards pardons dressed up as statutes of limitations.
Since Mr. Thompson’s visit, a judge has ruled that former First Minister Arlene Foster had unlawfully blocked funding for legacy inquests by demanding political agreement before discussing funding to fulfill the state’s obligations to legacy victims. We believe that American political pressure on the British can help make a difference for legacy victims in their long fight for truth and justice.”
Relatives for Justice respond to U.S. Congress House of Representatives letter to the British government Ambassador in Washington DC, Sir Kim Darroch, in which they raise concerns and call on the UK representative to explain failings by his government to implement agreements made on addressing the legacy of the past in the North of Ireland. The signatories also call upon the UK to honour their legal obligations with respect to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights by holding compliant investigations into killings. They also call for funds to enable inquests to take place and criticize any attempt to impose an amnesty for the British army, RUC and their agents by way of a statute of limitations.
Responding RFJ’s Mark Thompson said:
“We welcome and endorse fully the content of the letter. Hopefully this now opens further lines of communication in which members of the U.S. Congress can monitor and assist in making progress on the implementation of legacy agreements and human rights.
The letter reiterates precisely the concerns raised by RFJ during two recent visits to the U.S where we briefed members of Congress and urged them to intervene given the UK’s failure to implement legacy agreements for victims and survivors of the conflict. This included providing evidence at a key Congressional Hearing only a few weeks ago examining these very same matters. In particular we thank House Representatives Joe Crowley, Chris Smith and Richie Neal the joint co-sponsors of the initiative. They listened and responded.
Hopefully the letter, with its direct no nonsense content, will cut through the pretense and cynical games being played out by London and the NIO as they continue to stall and prevent implementation of legacy agreements reached in December 2014.
Families have waited far too long for accountability. Legacy, legal obligations and human rights, sit quite separately from the politics and political vacuum and must be addressed whether or not the political institutions are reestablished. In January of this year the AOH hosted an ‘emergency visit’ around legacy inviting RFJ to address a series of meetings throughout the State of New York. The backdrop to the visit wasthe refusal by the UK to implement agreed legacy mechanisms, their arbitrary inserting of a ‘national security’ veto in draft legislation re same, a proposed amnesty for UK State forces and their agents, and the persistent campaign in blocking inquests.
We appealed to Irish America and beyond to assist – to intervene. The response was immediate and encouraging. Hopefully these combined efforts will have the desired effect of creating external political scrutiny and pressure for theimplementation of agreed legacy mechanisms for all victims and survivors of the conflict.”
Mark Thompson of Relatives For Justice