If Boris Johnson thinks families in Northern Ireland will accept ‘amnesty for murders’ – he is mistaken

The prime minister has achieved the almost impossible – uniting unionist and nationalist parties in Northern Ireland in opposition to his plan to end historical prosecutions.

One unionist leader described it as "the next betrayal" coming hard on the heels of Boris Johnson’s backtracking over a Brexit border in the Irish Sea.

Nationalists say former soldiers cannot be above the law if there is evidence of them having committed offences during tours of duty in Northern Ireland.

But unionists are equally opposed to the so-called amnesty because it would apply to terrorists too, robbing victims of IRA shootings and bombings of justice.

There was no detail in the Queen’s Speech – just a commitment from the government to bring forward measures to "address the legacy of the past".

But the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis issued a statement soon afterwards confirming what seasoned observers of Northern Ireland had already figured out for themselves.

He said: "We will address the legacy of the troubles in a way that helps society in Northern Ireland to look forward rather than back, while delivering on our manifesto commitment to veterans who served in Northern Ireland.

"Our objective is to find a way forward that promotes reconciliation and focuses on information recovery, finding answers for families who have already waited far too long to learn the truth of what happened to their loved ones."

The 2014 Stormont House Agreement offered victims a choice between a truth recovery process and a new investigation but there’s no mention of justice now.

The timing of the amnesty announcement could not have been more insulting, coinciding with findings into the deaths of 10 people shot dead in 1971.

The coroner found the nine men and one woman "entirely innocent", shot "without justification" when British troops used "disproportionate force" at Ballymurphy in west Belfast.

If the prime minister thinks people like Briege Voyle, who campaigned for 49 years to clear her mother’s name, will accept this, he is mistaken.

In an emotion-charged media conference, she said: "Shame on you Boris. No one should be above the law. We will not accept your amnesty for murders.

"Every victim should have the right to pursue justice. We will never give up. We will fight on. Our children, our grandchildren will fight on. You will not win," she added.

And fight on they will because the Ballymurphy families and many other victims on all sides believe they have a right to justice.

It is not that they don’t want to move on. It is that they can’t because their loved ones were never given that opportunity.

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