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Government to take legal action on Troubles bill
Pic: RollingNews.ie

20 Dec 2023 / human rights Print

Government to take legal action on Troubles act

The Government has decided to take legal action against the United Kingdom under the European Convention on Human Rights over its controversial legislation on the legacy of the Troubles.

The action will be an ‘Inter-State’ case before the European Court of Human Rights.

In its application, the Government will argue that the provisions of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 are incompatible with the country’s obligations under the convention.

The act, enacted in September, will create a new independent body called the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, and offer immunity from prosecution for individuals who co-operate with it.


Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that Ireland’s decision was taken after “much thought and careful consideration”.

“I regret that we find ourselves in a position where such a choice had to be made,” he added.

The Tánaiste said that the British Government’s decision to go ahead unilaterally with the legislation, without effective engagement, had left the Government with few options.

“The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law is a specific and fundamental requirement of the Good Friday Agreement. Since the UK legislation was first tabled, the Government [has] been consistent that it is not compatible with the convention,” he continued.

“I used every opportunity to make my concerns known, and urged the British Government to pause this legislation.”

International observers

The Tánaiste pointed out that serious reservations about the new law had been raised by other international observers – including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Most importantly, this legislation is opposed by people in Northern Ireland, especially the victims and families who will be most directly impacted by this act,” he added.

The Government is particularly concerned about the provisions on immunity, which the Tánaiste said would shut down “existing avenues to truth and justice” for historic cases – including inquests, police investigations, Police Ombudsman investigations, and civil actions.

He described the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery as “not an adequate substitute” for police investigations.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland