Partial amnesty over Northern Ireland for security forces ‘hard to administer’
A partial amnesty for police and soldiers’ actions during the Northern Ireland conflict would be difficult to administer, the country’s top prosecutor said. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/partial-amnesty-over-northern-ireland-for-security-forces-hard-to-administer-36369190.html
A partial amnesty for police and soldiers’ actions during the Northern Ireland conflict would be difficult to administer, the country’s top prosecutor said. Sinn Fein and the Irish government have objected after some MPs called for a “statute of limitations” law . Proposals on addressing the legacy of deaths and injuries during Northern Ireland’s 30 years of violence have not yet been published.
Departing Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC said a partial safeguard from prosecution favouring the security forces would be legally questionable. He said: “As DPP, a partial amnesty would be difficult to administer . I t would certainly invite challenges but it is not for me to say whether it is legal or not.
“If it is a statute, it is a statute so it will have gone through parliament.
“In terms of the international legality of it, it would be questionable.”
MPs from the House of Commons Defence Committee have called for the blocking of prosecutions. Veterans have argued that it was unfair to charge pensioners over crimes committed early in the conflict.
The UK Government has said its preferred option for addressing the past is the 2014 Stormont House Agreement between the local parties, which did not include the proposal envisaged by some Conservative MPs. Their opinions are well-known, including within Government. Stormont House included a range of measures to address the past, including an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to search for new opportunities to prosecute.
It also envisaged a Commission on Information Retrieval whereby relatives of the dead and injured could privately receive information about the deaths of their loved ones . Its information would be inadmissible for criminal legal proceedings. Mr McGrory said around a quarter of his total workload was taken up with dealing with legacy issues.
He added: “The last 18 months the legal landscape from a prosecutorial perspective has become increasingly dominated by legacy, it is taking up a significant amount of time.”
He said as part of any implementation of the Stormont House Agreement resources would be made available to his successor to deal with the flow of cases referred by HIU investigators.
“That will very significantly increase the workload on the PPS as far as legacy is concerned.
“It would be utterly unsustainable under the current resource pot.
“I would expect that of the pot of money set aside to implement the Stormont House Agreement a significant amount of it would come our way but it will still nevertheless be a significant burden on the prosecutor’s office.”
Belfast City Hall security lags well behind rest of UK and must be upgraded urgently, expert warns
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-city-hall-security-lags-well-behind-rest-of-uk-and-must-be-upgraded-urgently-expert-warns-36348968.html
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. Andrew McQuillan accused the authorities of failing to do as much as they should to protect the public and called on the council to urgently make improvements.
He was speaking after the Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed details of a counter-terrorist assessment showing City Hall was extremely vulnerable to a car bomb or lone wolf attack involving knives or other weapons. The National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) identified the Christmas Market, which runs until December 23, as a “specific vulnerability”. The report will be discussed by the council’s strategic policy and resources committee today before it is debated at a full council meeting on December 4.
Mr McQuillan said: “I have worked on security at events across the UK, Europe and the US.
“The measures adopted in Northern Ireland just aren’t as good as those elsewhere, which is surprising given the significant paramilitary threat we faced in the recent past.
“Security at the Winter Wonderland event in London is phenomenal and that at the Christmas markets in Birmingham and Manchester is also very high.
“The measures in place at Belfast City Hall’s market lag seriously behind and this must be urgently addressed.
“We should not bury our heads in the sand . There are steps which can be taken immediately to improve the situation.”
The council has installed large planters on the pavement outside City Hall “to provide some protection in case of a vehicle-born attack” . But Mr McQuillan said that while the measure was welcome it wasn’t nearly enough. He suggested that protection could be enhanced if interlocking red-and-white security barriers were placed around City Hall . He added: “These have been placed at bridges in London before permanent barriers go up.
“They are filled with water and sand and are very cheap to erect.
“NaCTSO is a highly respected organisation . They have highlighted weaknesses and Belfast City Council really should move swiftly to implement their recommendations.”
Mr McQuillan, who owns Crowded Space Drones and whose father Alan was a former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, said there was a dangerous complacency in Northern Ireland about the dangers of an attack at a public venue. He added: “Just because we had republican and loyalist violence in the past doesn’t exempt us from international terrorism . Some claim on social media that reporting the threat here is scaremongering.
“These people have no awareness whatsoever of public safety at events . A report from the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office is not scaremongering . It has to be taken seriously.”
Mr McQuillan also claimed it was wrongly argued that increased security would mean Northern Ireland was returning to the past.
He said: “What these people ignore is that armed police at Christmas markets in England is very normal and England usually has an unarmed police force.
“We are dealing with a new emerging threat . Not updating and changing your plans is just not smart . It is waving a red flag at a bull.
“People can choose to inhabit a bubble but it doesn’t reflect the world we live in . No risks should be taken with major events.”
Mr McQuillan said the council could apply to have the national barrier asset system deployed – temporary high-grade security fencing which protects high-profile locations or events. He added: “I feel sorry for the council as the market’s location at City Hall isn’t the easiest to protect . We really need to talk about the issue .
Ignoring it doesn’t make our vulnerability go away.
“Making security at your event look visibly as hard as possible is a great deterrent for terrorists who are hunting vulnerable targets”.
PSNI condemn Omagh cenotaph security alert as ‘sickening attempt to create fear’ on Remembrance Sunday
PSNI condemn Omagh cenotaph security alert as ‘sickening attempt to create fear’ on Remembrance Sunday
Police have condemned a bomb alert near a cenotaph in Omagh as a “sickening attempt to create fear” on Remembrance Sunday. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/psni-condemn-omagh-cenotaph-security-alert-as-sickening-attempt-to-create-fear-on-remembrance-sunday-36311666.html
Police have condemned a bomb alert near a cenotaph in Omagh as a “sickening attempt to create fear” on Remembrance Sunday. A suspicious object was discovered on Sunday morning in the Drumragh Avenue area of Omagh and officers are at the scene.
Chief Inspector Graham Dodds said at this stage he is unable to say if or how the Remembrance event at the Cenotaph will be affected. The Remembrance Day wreath laying ceremony has been postponed. Cordons remain in place at Drumragh Avenue, Mountjoy Road, Sedan Avenue, George Street and High Street.
He said: Police would like to thank members of the public for their patience whilst we continue to work at the scene . The safety of the community is of paramount importance and we will not take any risks.
“I am aware many people are due to attend today s event at the Cenotaph however at this stage I am unable to say if or how the occasion will be affected.
” I would like to reassure the public that we are working hard to make the area safe and that we will continue to provide updates on any impact to today s event.
“This is a sickening attempt by cowards to create fear and disruption on a day when many gather to pay their respects to the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice and must be unreservedly condemned. The alert is ongoing and police are continuing to work with the Royal British Legion and local elected representatives regarding the Remembrance event. West Tyrone DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said he was disgusted at the alert which has disrupted the annual Remembrance Sunday commemoration.
Mr Buchanan said: Remembrance Sunday is a day when we pause to commemorate all those from every background who paid the supreme sacrifice . It is disgusting that anyone would target a war memorial at any time, but on Remembrance Sunday it is an act of particular hatred.
“Omagh has a long association of service within our Armed Forces and those who served came from all backgrounds and traditions . The cowardice of those who left this device stands in stark contrast to the bravery of those who are commemorated today.
“Whilst the annual Remembrance Service has been able to continue in Omagh Academy, there has been an impact on the events which would normally take place . It is right that the security forces take all the necessary precautions and I would pay tribute to their efforts in keeping people safe. Sinn Fein MLA Catherine Kelly said those behind the alert had shown “complete disregard” for all people in the community.
She said: “The ongoing security alert in the Drumragh Avenue area has caused significant disruption to local residents and to Remembrance Day commemorations.
Everyone has a right to remember their dead with dignity and respect and those responsible for this security alert have shown complete disregard for all the people of this community.
The alert has seen the closure of Drumragh Avenue, Mountjoy Road, Sedan Avenue, George Street and High Street.
“If this does prove to be a viable device those responsible must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Alliance West Tyrone representative Stephen Donnelly said urged anyone with information to contact police immediately. He said: This is a disgusting move by people who represent nobody, intended to cause as much disruption as possible for those attending the parade.
Those behind this have no regard for the lives of others in the community people are sick of this sort of behaviour and have voiced their opposition to it in the past . There can be absolutely no justification for it and I would appeal for it to stop.
My thanks go to the police and security services for their work in keeping local residents safe . If anyone has any information on this incident, I urge them to contact police immediately.
Belfast Telegraph Digital