- 13 Dec 23
The government has until January 15th to decide what action, if any, it will take against West Minster's controversial Legacy Bill
The Government will make a decision before mid-January about whether it will take a case to the European Court of Human Rights over the UK’s Legacy Bill, an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Speaking to the Dáil today, Mr Varadkar said that the Government will make a decision before 15th January about whether it will take a case to the European Court of Human Rights over the UK's Legacy Bill.
The proposed bill, would close down all civil and criminal Troubles cases - including inquests - from next May onwards.
The Legacy bill would offer a conditional amnesty to accused killers and has been controversial since its inception, having been criticised by victim groups, human rights organisations and all of Northern Ireland’s political parties.
The polemic bill passed its final hurdle at Westminster in September after MPs voted to overturn amendments made in the House of Lords. This meant the bill was allowed to proceed unchanged.
Mr Varadkar said there had been "no true engagement" with the Irish Government about the legislation which has been strongly opposed by victims of the Troubles.
The Taoiseach said: "We’re fully aware that the initiation of an inter-state case would be a significant step that would have to be done on solid ground".
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said the Government had received detailed and comprehensive legal advice from Attorney General Rossa Fanning which was “an essential contribution to our consideration of the next steps.
The Fine Gael leader said that legacy should not be seen as a sectarian issue “because it is not”, and also shouldn’t be couched in the terms of “orange and green or unionist versus nationalist”.
He added that the Irish Government was a "bystander" on the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Varadkar said the Government had tried the diplomatic approach of persuasion and dissuasion, ”trying to encourage, cajole and convince” the UK government not to proceed with the legislation.
The Taoiseach said a decision would have to be made before January 15th and the Attorney General’s advice was clear on that.
He was responding to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, who said that the Government had three weeks to decide on the issue and that taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights was the only way Ireland could put a stop to the Legacy Bill.
Mr Tóibín said the UK's Conservative Party had admitted that the purpose of the legislation was to stop cases being taken against the British army.
Speaking at leader's questions today Mr Tóibín said: "This case has to be taken before January 18th. There are 36 days for this Government to take this case,” he said. “For the last number of weeks and months the Government have been making excuses in relation to this. The Christmas holidays are going to take at least 14 days out of that 36 days. You have literally three weeks to make a decision on this.”