Amendment 116

Part of Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 29 March 2023.

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Photo of Baroness O'Loan Baroness O'Loan Crossbench 9:15, 29 March 2023

My Lords, these amendments relate to Clause 18 and immunity from prosecution. Those provisions are profoundly flawed, as was stated just two weeks ago by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which condemned the immunity provisions.

This group of amendments is described as relating to glorification. They seek to ensure that a person seeking to avail themselves of the immunity provisions that we have discussed, as the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, said, is not engaged in activity which precludes reconciliation. For that reason, I support all the amendments from the noble Lord. We have seen a whole range of activity which undermines attempts at reconciliation on both sides of the community and activity referring to past atrocities and glorifying those involved. The noble Lord gave a very graphic example in South Down.

I think also of the murals, in particular one in north Belfast that I regard almost with terror; it depicts two hooded gunmen who say, “Prepared for peace, ready for war”. It is a declaration of war and has stayed there regardless of all the attempts at promoting reconciliation. Many of these murals have been painted over, but some very deliberately have not. The problem is that there is nothing to be glorified in shootings, bombings, torture or exile. We all know that what results from those is pain, trauma and terror that sometimes lasts a lifetime.

I have worked with people who were at some of those incidents, where gunmen arrived to shoot somebody in a workman’s hut, or something like that, and 20 or 30 years on they still live in terror of those who came, because they did not get shot dead and others did. So I do support those amendments.

I have put my name to Amendment 167 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, because that seeks to prevent individuals who have been granted immunity from profiting from their conduct, in relation to the offence for which they might be granted immunity, through empowering the Secretary of State to make regulations to prohibit such activity.

I have put my name also to Amendment 177, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, which creates a new offence of glorifying terrorism. I think it could be quite difficult to prosecute and it may need a little fine-tuning. Perhaps the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, has indicated how we should approach this, namely by accepting the purpose of the amendment and agreeing on that.

For the moment, the immunity provisions themselves have been roundly condemned, nationally and internationally; there is no merit in them. I hope that, ultimately, your Lordships will reject not only immunity provisions but the Bill also.