Varadkar warns against amnesty for Northern Ireland veterans

The Irish premier has said he raised the issue of an amnesty for soldiers who served in Northern Ireland with the British government.

On the first night of the British Irish Council on Thursday, Leo Varadkar said he raised the election promise by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he would protect soldiers who served in Northern Ireland from prosecution.

The Conservative pledge announced on Monday morning says it will prevent veterans facing “vexatious” legal action over historical allegations by changing the law.

Making the announcement, Mr Johnson told veterans: “We will always support you.”

British-Irish Council summit
British-Irish Council summit

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said that under the proposals, the Human Rights Act “will be amended to specify that it doesn’t apply to issues – including NI – that took place before the Act came into force in October 2000”.

The Irish government has been open in its opposition to the law change since the announcement, noting it would be in contravention of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

Within the agreement it states there is no amnesty for any one sector within Northern Ireland, or people who are involved in breaches of the law during the Troubles.

During a press conference on Friday, Leo Varadkar said he brought the issue up with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith.

“Yeah, we actually discussed that matter last night, and I expressed the very strong view of the Irish government, that there shouldn’t be any amnesty for anyone who perpetuated crimes in Northern Ireland, no matter whether they were state actors or not,” Mr Varadkar said.

When the issue was put to Mr Smith, he said the British government is dedicated to the agreement previously signed by both governments.

“The British government, as you know, on legacy is dedicated to the Stormont House Agreement,” he said.

“We are talking at the moment about how we ensure the Stormont House Agreement is implemented in full, and we are talking at the moment – depending on the election result, we will push forward in consultation with all groups and want to deliver on that.”

The idea of such an amnesty has been floated over a number of years, with calls for its implementation rising after a decision earlier this year to charge one soldier, known as Soldier F, for his part in the death of two people on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.