Brandon Lewis admits the deadline for legislation on NI’s legacy issues has passed

Brandon Lewis has admitted that his autumn deadline for legislation on controversial proposals to tackle Northern Ireland’s legacy issues has passed.

In July the Northern Ireland minister announced plans for a statute of limitations that would end all prosecutions for incidents of unrest through April 1998 and apply to veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

Lewis said in October that the government intended to pass legislation on the plans «this fall.»

But he said the deadline was «too late» at a news conference at the Foreign Office on Thursday, following a meeting of the British-Irish government conference.

«Autumn has already passed,» said Lewis. «I think the last I heard from the fall semester was the Fall Manifesto of December 4th one year. So, I think we might have missed that already.»

«The truth is, I think, it’s important to take the time to try and find a way forward that can help Northern Ireland move forward.

«If it takes a little bit longer, that’s something we’ve been willing to do, which is why we didn’t deal with this earlier in the year and were focused on trying to do something in the fall, but we’ll do everything we can to try and find a way forward that works together.» .

Earlier this year, the Conservative Party administration published a leadership paper outlining its intention to introduce a statute of limitations for crimes committed during the conflict through April 1998, which would apply to veterans as well as paramilitaries.

The proposals, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to «draw a line in light of the turmoil», would also end all longstanding civil investigations and proceedings.

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The package of measures also included a new truth-recovery commission and an oral history initiative.

But the move was denounced by all the major political parties in Northern Ireland as well as the government here and a host of victim and survivor groups.

Lewis met Northern Ireland’s political parties to discuss the proposals on Tuesday.

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After the meeting, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said: » [British] The government’s proposal for a statute of limitations is not only opposed by every political party in Northern Ireland, but the Victims and Survivors Commission survey showed overwhelming opposition from the victims themselves.

«If we want to have a process that is truly victim-centered, the opinions of those victims have to be put front and center.»

Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney said he believes the proposals will be implemented «soon.»

«The British government does not support this position and Brandon Lewis has told us he must now take these amnesty proposals off the table,» he said.

However, today’s meeting is the clearest indication yet that the British government intends to move forward with drafting and enacting legislation to grant amnesty to state forces.

«This is a very appalling position that the British government should adopt.»

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