Government urged to scrap NI legacy bill after ’embarrassing’ Lords vote

The Government has been urged to scrap a controversial Bill to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past after an “embarrassing” House of Lords vote.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, which is opposed by victims groups and most political parties, proposes an effective amnesty for crimes in exchange for information.

It would also prevent future civil cases and inquests into Troubles offences.

In the final stages of its parliamentary journey, on Tuesday, Labour former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Murphy of Torfaen proposed a change to the Bill setting out conditions for legal immunity as part of reconciliation efforts, including consent from the families of victims.

Peers supported his amendment to the Bill 201 to 190, majority 11, with many urging against the immunity offer plan.

However the Bill is expected to clear the final hurdle at Westminster later this week.

Victims campaigner Raymond McCord, from the Truth and Justice Movement, described events on Tuesday as a “defeat” and an “embarrassment” for the Conservative government.

Mr McCord, who is seeking answers around the murder of his son Raymond junior by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997, said it “once again shows the opposition to this shameful Bill”.

“Today the Conservatives were clearly not the party of law and order rather they were the party of shame,” he said.

“Murder is murder despite what the Conservatives say.

“We, the Truth and Justice Movement – the cross-community victims group, must congratulate all those who voted for the amendment but special thanks to Baroness Nuala O’Loan and Baroness Margaret Ritchie for their open support for all victims.

“Today was a victory for the victims and it must have been hard for the Conservative Lords losing in front of victims sitting in the gallery.  Will the Conservatives learn from this and scrap the bill? That is what must be done, nothing less.”