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The Troubles Amnesty in the spotlight in the next UTV ‘UP CLOSE’

Victims are ‘being robbed of all forms of power’

The next episode of UTV’s award winning current affairs programme ‘Up Close’ investigates the British government's highly controversial amnesty proposals on Troubles prosecutions, in an in-depth programme which airs on Tuesday 31st August at 10.45pm.

Entitled ‘Justice in Jeopardy?’ the hour-long programme examines the proposals, unanimously rejected by politicians and victims’ families in equal measure, which effectively give an amnesty that would apply equally to police, paramilitaries and soldiers.

The proposals go against what was agreed at Stormont House and could mean an end to Troubles inquests. They could also lead to a ban on all criminal prosecutions related to the conflict, as the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman would be legally barred from investigating troubles-related crimes.

The programme opens with an extended report shedding light on five families’ very different stories, all of whom lost loved ones during the Troubles. The film captures their hurt and loss as they journey to get to the truth of what happened to their relatives.

Many of the families have rarely if ever spoken publicly before.

Seamus McDonald whose parents were murdered.

In what was one of the most brutal murders of the conflict, Seamus McDonald recalls how both his parents were killed by the UFF in front of him and his baby sister at their home in Newtownabbey in 1976.

When asked what he lost that night, he says:

“Everything. Whoever I was meant to be in life with my parents died that day, along with my mother and father.” He adds, “What sort of precedent are they setting if they can just draw a line under mass murder, and forget about it?” No one was ever prosecuted for the double murder.

Alan Irwin talking about the deaths of his father and uncle.

Rev Alan Irwin’s father and uncle, both part time UDR soldiers, were murdered seven years apart by the IRA in Co. Tyrone. He continues to look for justice and comments:

“[Reconciling]...’good with evil, without repentance and remorse and retribution? It can’t be done.”

Shane Laverty gives his first TV interview about his brother's death in UTVs Up Close.

Shane Laverty speaks for the first time about his brother Robert, an 18 year old RUC policeman killed while on duty almost 50 years ago. He is outraged at the Westminster proposals, and comments:

“Is it amnesty or amnesia?”

Shane Laverty gives his first TV interview about his brother's death in UTV’s Up Close.

Also interviewed is Professor Brandon Hamberwho is based at the International Conflict Research Institute at Ulster University. He explains how elements of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission might work for victims here but casts doubt on the effectiveness of directly comparing what the government is proposing in Northern Ireland to the model used in South Africa.

The second half of the programme will be a studio discussion, examining the issues arising from the report. Former police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loanand former Head of the Armed Forces, Lord Dannatt are participating, with legal commentary provided by human rights and international law professor, Louise Mallinder from Queen’s University.

Niall Donnelly interviewing Shane Laverty for Up Close.

UTV producer and presenter Niall Donnelly said:

“From the families’ point of view, we hope the programme conveys the emotion and complexity of the pain experienced by so many here during the Troubles. We have lined up an expert panel for the studio discussion which we hope will shed light on the intricacies of the proposals and what the hurdles may be in the coming months.

“Thank you to all the contributors but especially those who very bravely put their own personal tragedy aside to tell their stories.”

Tony Curry, Programmes Editor at UTV said:

“UTV News reported extensively on the initial amnesty announcement and the overwhelming rejection of the proposals, and through Up Close, we’ve been able to dig deeper and investigate the issue further, hearing not only the human stories, but also examining with the help of experts how, and if, it could work in any form. We haven’t shied away from this very sensitive but important issue, and hope that this programme will help viewers understand both the emotional and practical elements of the proposals.”

Up Close – Justice in Jeopardy?’ will air on Tuesday 31st August 10.45pm on UTV.

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