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AMNESTY ANGER British spy Martin McGartland says Troubles amnesty will just make 30-year 'secret' official

Ex-Provo turned informer says British government has been protecting terrorists for decades

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Martin McGartland

Martin McGartland

Martin McGartland

A British superspy says plans to end Troubles-related prosecutions will just make a “secret” 30-year amnesty official.

Former IRA man turned double agent Martin McGartland said the British government had already been protecting terrorists and security service members accused of murder from prosecution since the 1990s.

“This line by the government is just window dressing and it’s an embarrassment,” the Provo turned informer told the Sunday World.

“What I would say is this, the amnesty they are now planning to put in place has been unofficially in place for the last 30 years, and they are now only trying to make it official.”

His comments come as figures show those who will benefit the most from the controversial proposals are paramilitaries – and not those in the security forces.

Of the almost 1,190 deaths being probed by the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch (LIB), 530 were carried out by republicans, 354 by the security forces and 371 by loyalists. Over 30 killings are listed as ‘unknown’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the amnesty move would enable Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles”.

Victims groups have hit out at the plans, saying an amnesty will bring “nothing but further pain and anguish to people who have suffered so much”.

McGartland, who has survived numerous IRA attempts on his life, said those working for the security forces, including former terrorists, were already “immune” to prosecution.

“I sat and watched the statement being read out on TV in the Houses of Parliament in sheer disbelief. The British government, and I am talking about the Home Office, 10 Downing Street, the NIO, they have already, in conjunction with Special Branch and MI5, been operating a secret amnesty for every single person who was an informer.

“There has been an amnesty in place for at least the previous 30 years that I have been fighting with the government vigorously. I have been relentless; I haven’t stopped for three decades.

“Those senior IRA men involved in my kidnapping, they have covered it up, they have protected them and they have done nothing despite having fingerprints and forensic evidence, surveillance footage, everything they needed to convict them.”

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The proposals, which are opposed by the Irish government, envisages the establishment of a new independent body, likened to South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission and intended to help families find the truth about what happened to their loved ones.

The Information Recovery Body would have “full access” to information from state agencies and could take statements from individuals, according to a government document.

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was gunned down by the IRA as she left a chapel in south Belfast in 1984, said she had little faith in any such body helping victims.

She told the Sunday World: “How do we know if they are telling the truth? How do we know that someone else hasn’t been sent to say that they were involved when actually it was really more senior members who don’t want their name put to it? So no I absolutely do not trust them one bit.

“Mary McArdle who as you know was arrested for taking the guns after Mary’s murder, she could tell me, she could tell my family, she could co-operate with the HET whenever they asked her to do so, about who was involved and give us the answers we needed.

“Who were the two gunman for definite who murdered Mary and shot dad, and she refused to do so.”

Ann added: “I know the likelihood of me ever getting a prosecution for Mary’s murder is just so slim now, but it is so wrong to take away that glimmer of hope.

“It is so wrong that she followed the law, that she was a law-abiding citizen of this country and now the government are changing the legislation to not give her the right to justice, as if her human life was not worth anything.

“Let us just have that glimmer of hope that one day someone may well be caught for the murder of our loved ones. We need to know what happened, these people need to receive accountability for what they did and for it to be acknowledged that what happened to us was wrong. And just support us, stop making victims jump through hoops.

“Victims are always asked to sacrifice everything.”

Last week Sandra Peake, chief executive of the Wave Trauma Centre, said the government was effectively telling victims “that what happened to their loved ones no longer matters”.

Some are already planning to fight the proposals through court.

Ruairi Cummings, whose father Christy was left paralysed following the 1997 LVF gun attack at the Glengannon Hotel, told the Sunday World: “We aren’t giving up and we will never give up.

“If we have to take it to every court in the country to get it overturned, we will, at every cost,” the Co Tyrone dad said.

Ciaran MacAirt’s grandparents were killed in the 1971 McGurk’s Bar bomb blast, carried out by the UVF. The legacy activist has for years campaigned on behalf of the families of those killed in the atrocity, who suspect collusion played some part.

He said yesterday: “The perfidious British government is running scared from truth, justice and acknowledgement. The British state’s interests may now lie in burying its war crimes and protecting its killers, but our families will continue to fight for our basic human rights.”

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