Changes needed to legacy bill

23.11.2022 | Church in Society, Statements, Public Affairs, Legacy & Dealing with the past

As Members of the House of Lords debate the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill today, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has again called for reconciliation to be placed at the heart of any legislative framework for dealing with the past.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and PCI’s General Secretary said, “When Peers come to debate this legislation later today, I hope they will keep the stories of victims and survivors, many of whom are from our own Presbyterian family, at the forefront of their minds. Furthermore, if Northern Ireland is to move forward, and relationships across these islands given an opportunity to flourish, then reconciliation must be at the heart of this process.”

Mr Gribben continued, “Members of the Upper House will note that while the word ‘reconciliation’ is included in the title of the Bill, there is no definition within it. Without a definition, or even principles on which reconciliation can be founded, how can this legislation be an agent for change, building on the patient and tireless work towards reconciliation between and within communities across these islands that is being done by so many different organisations? It requires more than words on a page.

“There is little incentive for perpetrators of violence to engage with the process of ‘information recovery’, removing from those who have lost loved ones the hope of justice, should they wish to seek it. This is the very opposite of the gospel which unites hope and justice in the person of Jesus Christ,” Mr Gribben said.

“There was broad consensus around the four pillars of the Stormont House Agreement of 2014, which sought to address the legacy of the past, which gave us all hope. The UK government has, however singlehandedly managed to create a position where this legislation is universally opposed by the vast majority of victims groups, political parties and the churches.”

Mr Gribben concluded by saying, “With this opportunity for members of the House of Lords to debate the purpose and key principles of this legislation, it is our prayer that amendments can be tabled even now, which will ensure any final legislation can act as a means to ensuring that hope for the future, and that the hard work of reconciliation will win out. That we are still having this conversation almost 25 years on from the historic peace agreement requires serious reflection from all of us – as churches, elected representatives and legislators across these islands, along with wider civic society, as we seek to play our part in building a better future.”

Photo: Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Yesterday, 22 November, the Financial Times published a joint opinion piece by the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh on the Bill. You can read the text of Archbishop John McDowell's and Archbishop Eamon Martin's and piece here.

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