Victims of Troubles-related violence have raised concerns over planned government legislation to deal with legacy issues affecting victims of the Troubles at a public meeting in Derry.
Pardraigin Drinan, human rights lawyer and civil rights activist, addressed those gathered at the Maldron Hotel in Derry, after a representative from the Department of Justice pulled out of the meeting.
Ms Drinan said she had been “very, very shocked” by what she had learned about the process around the legacy plans at a previous meeting, and that there was a procedure in place and legislation already drafted, with plans to get this through by the Autumn.
“What is very frightening about this is the legislation they are committed to having in law by October hasn’t yet been produced in draft form. The DoJ has not given us that legislation.
“There has been no scrutiny. There will be no scrutiny in Stormont because it is not Stormont legislation; there will be no scrutiny in Westminster because it is being done by way if statutory instrument.”
The meeting was told that the new moves by the government would include various strands under the Stormont House Agreement- the Historical Investigations Unit to investigate conflict related deaths; the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval and oral history archive.
Ms Drinan said that first trench of sections contained within the new proposals seemed to suit the perpetrators of violence rather than the victims.
Among those who attended the event where organsier Vicent Coyle, who nephew Kieran Doherty was shot and killed by the Real IRA, Kate and Linda Nash, whose brother William was shot dead on Bloddy Sunday and whose father Alex was wounded trying to come to his son’s aid.
Helen Deeery whose brother Manus was also shot and killed in 1972 was also in attendance, as was Danny Bradley, whose brother Seamus was killed during Operation Motorman.
Speaking from the floor, Mickey Bridge, one of those shot and wounded on Bloody Sunday, expressed concerns as he queried whether the PSNI could, after four years, now hand over the Bloody Sunday murder investigation Historical Investigations Unit.
Mr Bridge said it was the PSNI’s duty to investigate criminal acts uncovered by a Judicial Inquiry and that this should not be allowed to be delegated to a new body.
“If they are doing it they are doing it for a reason and the reason is quite simple- that they will never be held accountable for anything they done in state killing. If they are transferring that investigation of Bloody Sunday on HIU they are doing it for that reason and that reason only.”
Local woman Patricia McBride raised concerns over what the new proposals would mean for cases like the Bloody Sunday families, cases post-ceasefire and post-Good Friday Agreement or those murders outside the jurisdiction such as Eddie Fullerton in Donegal or bombings in England, Dublin and Monaghan.
She said that from speaking to victims and survivors over many years, there seemed to be a consensus that a menchanism to investigate historical cases was needed.
“There is still an opportunity to shape how this Historical Investigations Unit looks and how it operates,” she said. “Until the legislation goes through, nothing is set in stone.”
Earlier at the meeting, chairperson, freelance journalist Lyra McKee told those gathered that the Department of Justice was supposed to send a representative but that a phonecall was received at 6.20pm the night before notifying that they would not be coming as the event had turned into a public meeting.
When contacted a Department of Justice Spokesperson responded: “The Department of Justice recently held a number of stakeholder engagement workshops to discuss justice related policy areas arising from the Stormont House Agreement.
“In addition, we agreed to meet a number of groups on a one to one basis including a meeting in Derry on 26 August.
“As this has now grown into a public meeting, going beyond the scope of the current stakeholder engagement, the Department regrets that officials will not be able to attend. We will, however, arrange one to one meetings with appropriate interested parties on the justice aspects of the Stormont House Agreement and we apologise for any inconvenience.”