MP gives personal testimony
The Northern Ireland [Legacy and Reconciliation] Bill was passed in the House of Commons last night and was supported by John Baron. John made a number of contributions to the debate having served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The Bill was criticised by Opposition Members and the DUP for not focussing enough on bringing criminals to justice.
“I hear from Opposition Members about the quest for justice. We get that…. As a young platoon commander in Crossmaglen, I played billiards with a Royal Ulster Constabulary officer one evening. The following day, I had to put up a cordon because he was caught by an improvised explosive device and he was in pieces. That brought home the cost of the troubles not just to the individual but to the families concerned, and how bloody they were.”
“We must remember what the Bill is trying to do… to provide answers to many, many families of victims. Answers help people to move on… it is a large part of the purpose of the Bill: to try to move things on in the hope that we can bring about greater reconciliation and provide answers for families, while leaving the door open to prosecutions for those who are not co-operating.”
“Some say that the legal system was not suspended during the Good Friday agreement, but in many ways it was. People who had committed heinous crimes were let out of prison. The Democratic Unionist party may not have agreed with that, and at the time I had trouble swallowing it, but it was put to a referendum in the Province, and 71.1% of the people of Northern Ireland backed the Good Friday agreement.”
“The Bill is not perfect… but perfection should not be allowed to be the enemy of the good….we have to see things in the round. Twenty-four years after the Good Friday agreement, there have been relatively few successful criminal prosecutions, but a great many answers are still needed... If the Bill helps us to move closer to providing those answers without ruling out the use of the criminal justice system for those who do not co-operate, it… will be better than what we have seen in recent decades.”
Notes to Editors
For John’s full speech, please go to Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) - Hansard - UK Parliament