Dublin calls UK bill on amnesty for N.Ireland unrest 'disappointing'

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Ireland on Wednesday hit out at proposed UK legislation granting immunity from prosecution to individuals involved in decades of sectarian unrest in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles".

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said it was "disappointing" the UK Government had chosen to "unilaterally introduce legislation".

"We will continue to engage with the UK government at all levels to better understand the provisions of this bill... but at this initial stage I have serious concerns and cannot support it in its current form," he added.

Britain on Tuesday introduced the legislation proposing the creation of a truth and recovery commission offering amnesty to British security personnel and paramilitaries if they co-operate with its inquiries.

Coveney added he had "serious concerns" about whether the power of the commission complied with European law and international human rights obligations.

The judge-led body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR), will decide if perpetrators qualify for immunity and operate for a period of five years under the UK government's Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis has said the bill would help Northern Ireland move on from its troubled past.

"The current system is failing; it is delivering neither truth nor justice for the vast majority of families. It is letting down victims and veterans alike," he said.

"Every family who lost a loved one, no matter who they were, will be provided with more information than ever before about the circumstances of their death," he added.

The legislation has sparked anger in Northern Ireland, which was plagued by sectarian violence for three decades before the signing of the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

Helen Deery, whose 15-year-old brother was shot dead by British soldiers in Londonderry in 1972, told the BBC the bill was "disgusting".

"I feel the exact same way today as the day he died. I won't rest until we get justice," she said.

The proposed UK legislation on the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict coincided with an unveiling of plans in London to overhaul post-Brexit trade arrangements in the province, which similarly provoked anger in Dublin and other EU capitals.

The 27-member bloc has promised reprisals if the UK pushes ahead to unilaterally legislate on the trading rules known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.