Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that this exemplary report demonstrates to the victims who have suffered, and continue to suffer so much, that the scheme was not unlawful, was not an amnesty, and was not a get-out-of-jail-free card, that it did not offer immunity from prosecution, that no Minister involved misled anyone, and that although the scheme was sensitive, it was not secret?
May I put it directly to the Secretary of State that she has a responsibility to take this process forward, to learn from the report, and to bring all the parties together? That cannot be left simply to the Northern Ireland parties. Both the British Government and the Irish Government need to move forward, together with the parties, and address this past which continues to haunt Northern Ireland and all the victims who have suffered.
Mrs Villiers: I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s praise for the report. As I have said, I think that there are concerns about the disclosure relating to the scheme; I think that it would have been far better if I, and my predecessors, had been more transparent about the way in which it operated. However, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is important for us to revive the all-party talks, and for the parties to get round the table again to discuss the crucial issues of flags, parading and the past. We need to learn from the report.
I can, of course, give the right hon. Gentleman a complete assurance that the United Kingdom Government remain committed to doing all that they can to support the Northern Ireland parties in their efforts on these matters, and that we are working closely with our colleagues in Dublin, who share our determination to do everything possible to facilitate and support an agreement on the past.
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): There should be no amnesty or “get out of jail free” card for troubles-related crimes, but does the Secretary of State agree that in 90% of cases, according to experts, victims will not get justice by pursuing prosecutions alone, because the evidence is simply not available to bring those cases to trial and get a conclusion?
Mrs Villiers: What came across clearly was that many victims wanted the possibility of justice. I think they would accept that in many cases that is going to be difficult to achieve, but it would be unacceptable to introduce an amnesty and deprive victims of any hope of receiving justice.
Writing in the Belfast Telegraph former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said,
‘Labour’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and the historic 2007 settlement which established devolved government with old enemies sharing power, has now delivered seven years of peace and stability nobody imagined possible amid the terror and mayhem of the Troubles.
‘Yet “the past” continues to haunt Northern Ireland, dragging it backwards, and recent political controversy has hardly been illuminating.
‘Former Labour secretaries of state like Shaun Woodward and I, seeking solutions, have been accused of sidelining victims, or putting the peace process before justice. Nothing could be further from the truth.’
Read the full article here
Peter Hain Northern Ireland Article May 2014
Henry McDonald (Labour rejects Peter Hain’s call for Troubles amnesty, theguardian.com, 12 May) must know, or might have checked with me, that I have never supported an amnesty, let alone a “blanket” one for Troubles-related crimes. Labour‘s shadow Northern Ireland SecretaryIvan Lewis heard me reject an amnesty on the record in parliament. As the former secretary of state for Northern Ireland who helped negotiate the historic 2007 settlement, I believe it is no answer to pursue prosecutions for Troubles-related crimes, especially when in 90% of these cases going back 40 years or more, the evidence cannot be retrieved. That means victims need redress and justice in another way, as suggested by the 2009 Eames-Bradley and 2013 Richard Haass reports, joined by Northern Ireland’s attorney general John Larkin. Northern Ireland’s politicians need to have the courage to agree a new approach and move on from the past of horror and evil.
Peter Hain MP
This was taken from the Guardian website, the article was published on Tuesday the 13th of May. The link to the original is below.
Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain MP yesterday spoke against returning too heavily to the past in Northern Ireland.
Talking to Good Morning Britain News Mr Hain said:
“I do not think that going back 40 and more years in this fashion is actually going to take Northern Ireland forward, nor do I think, in the vast majority of unsolved cases, it will bring any sense of justice to victims.”