Bereaved soldier’s family and the family of a 12-year old child killed by a British soldier unite to oppose the Legacy Bill

23rd Nov 2022

Today, as the Legacy Bill reaches the House of Lords, two families bereaved by the Troubles – the family of a young private murdered by the IRA and the family of a child shot in the back as she walked to church by a British soldier – have come together to write to the Prime Minister urging him to scrap the Northern Ireland (Legacy & Reconciliations) Bill.

The letter can be accessed here: Letter to the PM & SSNI Legacy Bill

Full text of the article in today’s Telegraph here:

The families of two victims of The Troubles have joined forces to urge the Prime Minister to “scrap” its new Legacy Bill.

In a letter seen by The Telegraph and sent to Rishi Sunak on Wednesday, ahead of the Bill’s second reading in the Lords this afternoon, the families of  Majella O’Hare, 12, and Private Tony Harrison, 21, have warned that the proposal “protects the perpetrators of serious crimes rather than those who suffered at their hands”.

The two families acknowledged that in joining forces to co-sign this letter “many might think we would be on opposite sides of this debate”, it is in both their interests that “as a veteran’s family and family of a victim of the armed forces” they express their “grave concern about the Bill and to call upon you to scrap it”.

They added that if the Government goes ahead with this proposal it will mean any “meaningful truth, accountability or justice will be cruelly taken away from us”. 

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill is expected to bring an end to the prosecution of retired soldiers, over deaths during the conflict. 

However, it will also give an effective immunity to terror suspects on both sides provided that they also co-operate.

In August 1976, Majella O’Hare was on her way to church with a group of friends in the Armagh village of Whitecross, when she was killed after two shots fired from a British soldier’s general-purpose machine gun hit her in the back.

While the Ministry of Defence apologised in 2011 for her death, no action or accountability followed and her family have since been pressing for an independent investigation into the killing. 

The Seaman family lost Pte Harrison when he was murdered by the IRA while off duty and visiting his fiancée in Belfast. A double-agent working for both the IRA and the RUC publicly admitted being involved in the killing. The authorities have promised to investigate and his case is open and awaiting investigation.

They said that the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery that is being set up to conduct a review was “limited and toothless”, that would “enable the killers of our loved ones to ask for a water-tight immunity from prosecution in exchange for a simple account of what happened”. 

“It is hard to begin to express to you how devastated we are by these proposals,” they added.

Emma Norton, solicitor for the Seaman family and director of The Centre for Military Justice, said: “The fact that Pte Harrison’s family and Majella O’Hare’s family have met and come together to campaign against this Bill is hugely significant. It is a reflection of the devastating impact this Bill will have on all the families from all parts of this conflict who continue to be deeply affected by the Troubles today.”

Ms Norton cited the 722 service personnel who were killed in paramilitary attacks like the one that killed Pte Harrison during the Troubles, whilst a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that there are 225 cases still under or awaiting investigation where the victim was a member of the British armed forces. 

“This Bill will make it very unlikely that any unsolved murders of British soldiers will ever be solved,” she added. “Bereaved military families and surviving veterans whose loved ones or colleagues were killed and never saw anyone brought to justice – just like the families of innocent people like Majella O’Hare who died at the hands of the British Army – have nothing to gain from this Bill and everything to lose.”



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