Coveney opposed to unilateral action which is contrary to the Stormont House agreement

The Government is opposed to any unilateral action on legacy which is contrary to the Stormont House agreement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.
He was responding to reports that the UK government plans to give an amnesty to British soldiers accused of crimes during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
Politicians on both sides of the Border have condemned reports of plans which were leaked to British newspapers Wednesday night .
It would involve a statute of limitations so that prosecutions for crimes committed up to the Belfast Agreement in 1998 are prevented except for cases involving war crimes, genocide or torture.
The plans were reported as preventing the prosecution of British army veterans of the conflict, but some reports said they would apply to all sides in the conflict, including IRA members.
Reports also suggested that the British government intends to institute a South African style truth and reconciliation commission. The leaks coincide with local elections taking place in England.
If the move proceeds as reported, it would be a violation of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement involving the Northern parties and the Irish and British governments.
Tweeting on Thursday, Mr Coveney said:Ive met many victims of the Troubles & their families. Ive seen ongoing heartbreak & pain whenever legacy is in news. Irish Govt is clear that we oppose any unilateral action on legacy, contrary to SHA. Victims&NI must be the priority, the only priority..
Irish Government sources were taken aback, stressing it was a unilateral move by the UK government.
The Secretary of State for Northern IrelandBrandon Lewis visited Dublin for a meeting with Mr Coveney on Wednesday.
Minister for Transport and Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan has said that he did not believe that Mr Lewis discussed the proposed Troubles Amnesty with Mr Coveney when they met on Wednesday.
When asked on RTÉ radios Morning Ireland if Mr Lewis had given Mr Coveney a heads up, Mr Ryan said that he did not believe so as if it had been discussed then it would have raised serious concerns and would have been addressed immediately.
Mr Ryan added that the issue had still not been confirmed and it had been only reported in UK newspapers on the eve of an election. We have to be slightly careful. Politicians would always play to their base, he said.
The Irish Government opposed any unilateral moves on this highly sensitive issue. Our thoughts first and foremost must be with the victims. The Stormont Agreement could not be abandoned lightly, he said.
Responding to the development, Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle ONeill tweeted: Reports that British government are to legislate for an amnesty for their state forces is another slap in the face to victims.
Another cynical move that will put British forces beyond the law. This is legal protection for those involved in state murder. This is not acceptable.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has described the proposed amnesty as the biggest betrayal of victims by a UK government.
It was very difficult for anyone to have faith in the UK government as they were the most cynical and untrustworthy UK government we have seen in many years.
Mr Eastwood told RTÉ radios Morning Ireland that he and his party had been worried about this possibility for some time. The UK government had acted unilaterally by briefing the Tory press on the eve of an election without informing the Irish Government. It is an absolute disgrace and a real betrayal of victims.
This government does not care. It is prepared to ride rough-shod over people. Reconciliation would be difficult if the government continued to act like this.
Mr Eastwood said he believed every victim was entitled to seek access to truth and justice and they were also entitled to seek information on the death of their loved ones.
The glorification of violence was not good, he added. Our society is sick. The governments action had left people hurt. Announcing such a decision on the night before an election was not the way to do it.
It is very difficult for any of us to have faith in the government.
Alliance Party leader and Stormont Justice Minister Naomi Long tweeted: This kind of briefing, before any meaningful engagement with victims families, typifies the contempt with which Govt are treating victims.
I believe that they deserve justice where that is possible: however, at the very least, they deserve not to learn of Govt plans on Twitter.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister expressed concern that an amnesty could be introduced. If the kite-flying in todays national press proves correct, then amnesty for terrorist murder is shamefully on its way, he said. Amnesty for terrorists in the tailwind of action to protect veterans is not acceptable, either by reason of the equivalence it embraces or the disproportionate advantage to terrorists.
Responding to reports that a statute of limitations is to be introduced, a UK Government spokesman said: The Government has clear objectives for addressing the legacy of the Troubles and delivering its manifesto commitments to veterans who served in Northern Ireland. We want to deal with the past in a way that helps society in Northern
Ireland to look forward rather than back. It is clear to all that the current system for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles is not working for anyone, failing to bring satisfactory outcomes for families, placing a heavy burden on the criminal justice system, and leaving society in Northern Ireland hamstrung by its past.
Many victims of the Troubles are vehemently opposed to any statute of limitations, which they characterise as an amnesty that will thwart their chances of justice.
The reported move, some detail of which could be announced in next weeks Queens Speech, would signal the scrapping of a key mechanism agreed by the UK and Irish Governments and main Northern Ireland parties in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. The Stormont House proposals included a new independent investigation unit to re-examine all unsolved killings.
Last March, Mr Lewis announced an intention to unilaterally move away from the Stormont House deal.
He said only Troubles killings where compelling new evidence had emerged would receive a full police reinvestigation.
He added that most unsolved cases would be closed and a new law would prevent them being reopened.
On Tuesday, the trial of two former paratroopers accused of the murder of Official IRA commander Joe McCann in 1972 collapsed due to legal issues related to the admissibility of statements and interviews given by the ex-soldiers. Additional reporting PA