By Irish Echo Staff
The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee will host a special congressional briefing by Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice and Professor Mark McGovern tomorrow, Wednesday.
Committee Chair Eliot Engel organized the emergency briefing after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to shut down prosecutions of British soldiers for murders during the Troubles. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, joined by the Irish American Unity Conference and other Irish activists have been urging local representatives to attend the emergency briefing.
Johnson, said a release from AOH Freedom For All Ireland chair, Martin Galvin, made a November 11 Armistice Day pledge to amend the Human Rights Act so it would no longer apply to issues - including murders during the Troubles - that took place before 2000.
The move, said Galvin, would cut off access to British courts for relatives of victims killed by British crown forces.
Johnson described the proposal as "a good way of protecting our armed services."
The proposal, added Galvin, “appears to discard sections of the Good Friday Agreement dealing with rights and safeguards in which the British government pledged to incorporate the European Convention of Human Rights into law for the North with direct access to the courts.
Victims' relatives, some who have been fighting for justice for decades, have reacted angrily. Emmett McConomy, whose 11-year-old brother Stephen was killed in Derry by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier 37 years ago said families like his are being "strung along and used as a political football for votes.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has stated that the British and Irish governments had agreed an approach on legacy and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
"There is no statute of limitations, no amnesty for anyone who committed crimes" he said.
"The law must apply to all, without exception, to achieve reconciliation."
Added the release announcing the Thompson/McGovern D.C. visit: “Recognizing the importance of this issue, Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel, a longtime congressional leader on Irish issues holding the key post of Chairman of House Foreign Affairs, organized the special hearing so that Congress can be fully briefed on this key issue.
“Mark Thompson, the Director of Relatives for Justice, and leading advocate for justice for relatives of those killed during the Troubles, already in the United States on an AOH tour, changed his schedule to speak at this crucial hearing.
“Professor Mark McGovern, of Edge Hill University near Liverpool, and the author of the groundbreaking book, ‘Counterinsurgency And Collusion In Northern Ireland’ will be flying directly to Washington to join him.
Congressman Richard Neal and other members of the congressional Friends of Ireland are expected to be present at the briefing.
"Boris Johnson feels entitled to Brexit’s disastrous border arrangements across Ireland as long as it serves English interests and boosts his election prospects.
“He now feels entitled to draw a legal Brexit blocking Irish victims from the courts and justice for which they have been fighting for decades. It is important for Irish America, and particularly our congressional representatives, to stand with those fighting for justice in Ireland. The AOH is grateful to our congressional leaders like Congressman Engel for holding this emergency briefing," said Martin Galvin