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British government accused of covering up its ‘dirty war’ in Ireland with amnesty proposal

THE British government was accused of being to the right of a notorious military dictatorship today during a debate on the proposed amnesty for Troubles-era crimes.

Sinn Fein deputy president Michelle O’Neill made the remarks as Stormont was recalled to debate a much criticised plan to introduce a statute of limitations on crimes committed during that period.

“This is something that is an affront to all families — this is about denying them their rights,” she said.

The British government can’t “face up to the consequences of their dirty war,” she said. 

“It actually places the British government to the right of Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile,” Ms O’Neill added, saying that the plans “aren’t about protecting those who wore uniforms but those who wore suits: those who were at the highest levels of government.”

The plenary session in the Northern Ireland Assembly was called by the SDLP, whose deputy leader Nichola Mallon tabled a motion calling on all Stormont parties to unite in opposition to the proposals outlined by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis last week.

She accused Westminster of trying to sweep victims’ pain under the carpet and deny them access to justice.

The amnesty proposal has been rejected by parties across the political spectrum. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MLA Trevor Clarke described the British government proposal on legacy as “an act of political cowardice.” However, his concern was for the “fictitious pursuit of ageing servicemen ”—  despite a wealth of evidence detailing their crimes committed during the Troubles.

Mr Lewis’s announcement came soon after the case against “soldier F” was dropped at the start of July. 

He was the only member of the armed forces to be charged with murder after the killing of 13 unarmed civilians by British troops in the events known as Bloody Sunday in Derry in January 1972.

Contrary to the claims of the DUP and a number of Tory backbenchers in Westminster, there is little evidence of a witch hunt of British service personnel. 

Tens of thousands of republicans and loyalists have been jailed, serving sentences totalling an estimated 100,000 years, compared with just four soldiers going to prison for less than five years each.

All of those jailed after being found guilty of murder while on active service were later allowed to rejoin the British army.

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