By David Young, PA
Hundreds of people have gathered in Belfast to demand the scrapping of the UK government’s contentious plan to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.
Relatives of those killed during the Troubles were among those who protested in heavy rain outside Belfast City Hall against the controversial legislation being put through Parliament.
Demonstrators marched from various parts of the city ahead of the event outside the landmark building in central Belfast.
The majority of bereaved families in attendance lost loved ones in killings involving state forces.
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill has already been through the UK House of Commons and is now set for consideration by the House of Lords.
It proposes a form of amnesty for perpetrators of Troubles crimes in exchange for co-operation with a new truth recovery body.
The Bill, if enacted, would also end inquests and civil proceedings related to the conflict.
The changes are opposed by political parties and victims’ groups in Northern Ireland, as well the Irish government.
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane addressed the ‘Time for Truth’ rally on Sunday afternoon while senior party figures, including vice president Michelle O’Neill, watched on from the crowd.
Mr Finucane, whose solicitor father Pat was murdered by loyalists in 1989 in a killing linked to state agents, told the event the Bill is designed to cover up the Government’s role in the conflict.
“The new Prime Minister Liz Truss needs to hear that we will not allow our rights to be cherry picked or traded ever by a British government,” he said.
“She must bin this flawed legislation without delay.
“This has and remains a long campaign and today is but another staging point.
“But we are stronger when we stand together in solidarity. We are not giving up. We are not going away.
“All the British Government can do is delay the truth. They can no longer deny responsibility and they can no longer deny rights and they will ultimately not be successful.
“We should and I know we will take hope that the truth will out.”
Natasha Butler, whose grandfather Paddy Butler was shot dead by soldiers in west Belfast in 1972, branded the legislation a “slap in the face to victims”.
Preliminary inquest proceedings into the deaths of Mr Butler and four others killed in the shootings in Springhill 50 years ago have recently commenced, with a full inquest due to be heard next February.
“This Bill of shame will provide an amnesty for British state forces and deny our families basic legal rights to an inquest, an independent investigation and civil actions,” Ms Butler said.
“It is a slap in the face to victims as it will prioritise the demands of the British military lobby over the legal rights of victims of state violence.
“The objective of the British government’s Bill of shame is to cover up their dirty war in Ireland.”
John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed by paratroopers on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972, told the rally the British establishment is “scared” of the truth.
“They are trying to deny us justice because they are scared to face justice,” he said.
“Every human being on this planet is born equal and if the British government’s Bill of shame is implemented, the victims of British army killings will be treated as less equal than others. This cannot be allowed.
“We will stop this obnoxious Bill by whatever means possible. We must never give up. We must fight on. We will fight on and we will not go away until truth and justice are achieved.”