Amendment 116

Part of Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:57 pm on 29 March 2023.

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Photo of Lord Eames Lord Eames Crossbench 8:57, 29 March 2023

My Lords, I support this group of amendments. I ask the Committee to consider them not in the detail of the proposed wording but in the entirety of their spirit and background, with which the Minister is very well acquainted. It is vital, as the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, has just said, that we take a wide view of what should be removed from immunity.

I have devoted a great deal—in fact, most—of my adult life to working for reconciliation. In the process, I have met many young people sucked into the paramilitary machine, not always realising what was happening to them—that was the human tragedy of it—but living to regret that they had allowed this to happen in their lives. I see these amendments in terms of those young people. I have seen what some of them have managed to do with their lives You might perhaps call it reconciliation; I prefer to call it a reawakening of conscience and of isolation from paramilitary activity. The success stories that I have seen have been from those who recognised that there was not an easy path to follow but that it was worth following. Those are the young people who these amendments are mostly targeted at.

I have seen those who have paid the price for what they have done. They have served their time and have managed to build some sort of decency to their lives. But I have also seen some who are extremely subtle in the way in which they have embarked on a continuing career that encourages others to be involved in criminal activity. I put it on the record, and ask the Minister to consider in his response, that we have to take the broadest possible attitude to the way in which society deals with what we call reconciliation, particularly in Northern Ireland terms. It is easy to write about it, to make money out of it and to establish it in programmes, the media and published work—you name it, it is there. This group of amendments reminds the Committee that we have to be realistic and to recognise that these things do happen and that there is no way in which any society moving forward can grant immunity to those who constantly find ways of escaping the net that the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, has spoken of.

Lastly, in supporting these amendments, I urge the Minister to recognise that there is a reality about them that perhaps was not captured by the title of this legislation. The reality is that reconciliation can be judged only by your actions, your way of life and the purpose to which you put it, rather than just saying it with your lips.