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Open letter to PM on Legacy Amnesty Proposals

5th July 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnston MP,

10 Downing Street,




5 July 2021

Dear Prime Minister

We wrote to MPs and Peers last October on behalf of the WAVE Trauma Centre, the largest cross community victims and survivors support group in Northern Ireland, to express our grave concern following your government’s unilateral decision to repudiate the Stormont House Agreement of December 2014.

We are aware that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has recently promised ‘intensive engagement’ on legacy issues.

We were promised ‘intensive engagement’ in March 2020.

Instead selected newspapers have been told more about plans the Government appears to have in mind than have the victims and survivors who live with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s violent past on a daily basis.

What has emerged through those briefings has turned concern into alarm.

Those briefings have confirmed that the core motivation behind the policy is not to deal with complex legacy issues in a coherent and sensitive way but rather to protect veterans from potential prosecution by a de facto amnesty that will include the very paramilitaries who murdered their colleagues as well as thousands of civilians.

We simply cannot believe that veterans would want that to happen to the families of their fellow service men and women killed during the Troubles.

If anyone in Downing Street or the Ministry of Defence or the Northern Ireland Office seriously thinks that an amnesty of this nature can form the foundation upon which reconciliation could be built then it shows how little they understand the nature of the pain and trauma which continues to be suffered by victims and survivors and their families.

The majority of victims and survivors are only too aware that the chances of securing a conviction for crimes that are decades old are beyond remote.

But to deny them even that possibility by perverting the criminal justice system cannot be right in a country that prides itself on adherence to the rule of law.

Would the families of the 7/7 bombings, or the Manchester bombing, or any other atrocity be asked to draw a line under their own grief and pursuit of justice?

But that is what is being proposed for those left grieving after the M62 bombing, Guildford and Birmingham, Warrington, Baltic Exchange, Docklands and many more in GB and Northern Ireland.

In our experience what families want above all is to know that the death of their loved one mattered and that it has been properly investigated.

How can that be too much to ask of any government?

People like Pat and Linda whose 18 year old son John was stabbed to death in a random sectarian attack by a loyalist gang when he was walking home in north Belfast in August 1996.

No one has been made amenable for this horrific crime and the Molloy family know no more about the circumstances of their son’s brutal murder today than they did then.

If it was a race hate crime on the streets of London would you tell grieving parents that the case is being closed in the name of reconciliation?

People like Gareth whose brother Raymond was murdered by the UVF in 1997.

There was never a proper police investigation and Gareth is convinced that evidence in his brother’s case lies in files that only an independent body with full police powers can get access to.

People like Margaret who was 30 years old in 1980 when her husband Peter was abducted by the Provisional IRA and held for three days before his body was dumped.

A police officer called to tell Margaret that her husband, the father of their three young children, was dead.

She heard nothing thereafter.

Ten years later the same police officer, now a detective, came to tell her that her son in law Gary had been murdered by the UVF.

Margaret has no idea if there was an investigation into that murder either.

Today she now knows more about her husband’s murder because it is being investigated, properly this time, by Operation Kenova under the direction of Jon Boucher.

Operation Kenova has shown that the only way to get the kind of information victims and survivors need is through an investigation to criminal justice standards.

Those who have suffered so much over the decades of the Troubles cannot be fobbed off with anything less.

Prime Minister you may or may not be familiar with the story of Patsy Gillespie.

Patsy was a civilian chef working in an army base in 1990.

The Provisional IRA held his family at gunpoint while he was chained to the steering wheel in the cab of a van containing a 1,200 bomb and was forced to drive to an army checkpoint.

He was a human bomb.

He shouted a warning to the soldiers but the bomb was detonated remotely and Patsy and five soldiers were murdered.

The people involved in the murder of Patsy Gillespie are probably still alive.

Ask yourself Prime Minister if what is proposed becomes law and an effective amnesty is granted, who will sleep easier at night: Patsy’s wife Kathleen or the people who held her and her children at gunpoint and the person who detonated the bomb?

How will saying to Kathleen that what happened to Patsy is no longer of any interest to the State help bring about reconciliation?

This proposal if implemented will not aid reconciliation.

It will cause anguish and bitterness that will bleed into subsequent generations.

It will also encourage those who are still prepared to maim and kill to believe that if they hold on long enough they too will not have to answer for what they have done.

Please think again Prime Minister.

Yours sincerely,

Sandra Peake: CEO WAVE Trauma Centre

Cathy McCann: Chair of WAVE Trauma Centre. Cathy’s father was murdered by B Specials (Auxiliary police) in 1969. Case unresolved.

In 1990 Cathy McCann was severely injured as the sole survivor in a roadside bomb in which a nun and three policemen were murdered by the Provisional IRA.

Damien McNally: Former chair of WAVE Trauma Centre. Damien’s father was murdered by loyalists in 1976. Case unresolved.

Rev Dr David Clements: Board member WAVE Trauma Centre. David’s father was an RUC officer murdered by the Provisional IRA in 1985. Case unresolved.

Jean Caldwell: Former staff member of WAVE Trauma Centre. Jean’s husband was murdered by the Provisional IRA in 1992. Case unresolved.

Ann Service: WAVE Trauma Centre client. Ann’s son Brian was murdered by loyalists in 1998. Case unresolved.