03 December 2005

No forces’ amnesty, SF insists

Daily Ireland

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams yesterday urged the Taoiseach to “persuade” the British government to remove the amnesty for British crown forces from its ‘on-the-runs’ (OTRs) legislation.
Speaking to reporters outside government buildings following a 90-minute meeting with Bertie Ahern, Mr Adams also said that his party had made the restoration of the political institutions in the north a priority.
He said he told the Taoiseach that his party wanted to see that the political institutions are put in place as quickly as possible in the New Year.
Leading his delegation, which included Martin McGuinness and Mary Lou McDonald, Mr Adams added that OTRs had been central to the discussions.
“First of all, the Taoiseach made clear that he had no advance notice of the British legislation that dealt with the amnesty for the British crown forces and their agents,” said Mr Adams.
“And we put it to the government that they needed to persuade the British government to remove that from the legislation.
“It is in breach of the Joint Communiqué from Weston Park. And it is certainly in breach of any agreement we had and any understanding that we had with the two governments.”
When asked what he would say to people who argued that if the legislation covers paramilitary OTRs it should also cover the British Army, Mr Adams said he did not agree.
“You are not talking about people on the run in this instance for what are termed paramilitary offences,” he said.
“You are talking about a very very small amount people who jumped bail or absconded who if they were arrested would be released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement anyway. And all the parties to the Weston Park talks agreed that this was an anomaly that needed to be resolved.
“But then the British, just in a broad sweep, gave an amnesty to everyone from their forces who were in any way involved in any offences on this island and anywhere else, not one has served a day in prison for any of that.”
He was then asked whether he was worried that the OTR issue could hold up the restoration of the institutions.
“What it will do is cause even greater hurt for those who have been hurt or bereaved or injured as a result of actions here by the British in Dublin City or in Monaghan, or in my own constituency or any part of the six counties,” he said.
“Or those implicated in the killing of Eddie Fullerton, for example, it just causes deep hurt to those victims and their families. As far as Sinn Féin are concerned we have a mandate to be involved in the institutions. And the main focus of our meeting was to see those institutions put back in place. And we want to be there with the other parties working on our mandate and being accountable and answerable to the populace for doing that.”
SDLP leader Mark Durkan yesterday restated his party’s opposition to the controversial Northern Ireland Offences Bill after a meeting with the family of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
Mr Durkan also met with campaigners representing the Pat Finucane Centre and Relatives for Justice.
“Tony Blair made a clear commitment to hold an independent public inquiry in to the Finucane murder if Judge Cory recommended it. He has driven a coach and horse through that commitment. The inquiry that he wants to hold will be neither public nor independent. It can be muzzled by the government at any time.”

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