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Paul Wilson said anyone who committed crimes during the Northern Ireland Troubles should face justice
The son of a high-profile politician murdered in one of the most gruesome and shocking attacks of the Troubles, has urged Westminster to halt plans to end conflict-related prosecutions in Northern Ireland.
Paul Wilson called proposals under the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill “obscene,” telling The Epoch Times: “If you’ve broken the law you need to face justice.”
Monday marked 50 years since the 64-year-old’s father, Senator Paddy Wilson, was killed alongside his Protestant female friend by loyalist paramilitaries.
The Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) founding member was butchered by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) after leaving an event in Belfast in June 1973.
His mutilated body was found close to his car at a quarry on the outskirts of the city centre.
The 39-year-old had been stabbed over 30 times, and his throat had been cut from ear to ear.
His friend, 29-year-old government clerk Irene Andrews, was also slain in the frenzied sectarian knife attack that caused revulsion across the province.
Speaking on Monday ahead of a memorial event to mark five decades since his father lost his life, Wilson accused the Conservative government of failing Troubles victims.
“The legacy bill that they’re trying to push through at the minute I think is obscene, to be quite frank,” he said.
“There’s so many people out there that lost relatives and it doesn’t matter what uniform you’ve got on, whether you’ve got a denim suit on, a Royal Ulster Constabulary suit on, a British army suit on—if you’ve broken the law you need to face justice.
“And then you put your defence through the court.”
UFF leader John White was convicted of the Wilson and Andrews murders in 1976 and received two life sentences. A judge described the killings as “a frenzied attack, a psychotic outburst.”
Under the government’s new proposals, paramilitary killers like White will not face court or prison if they cooperate with a new truth recovery body, known as the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).
If the legacy bill is passed, the government body will be led by a board consisting of a number of commissioners, including chief commissioner and retired judge Sir Declan Morgan.
Duties of the ICRIR will include carrying out reviews of deaths “caused by conduct forming part of the Troubles”, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).
It will also produce reports on the findings of each of the reviews of deaths and “other harmful conduct’ and determine whether to grant persons immunity from prosecution “for serious or connected Troubles-related offences other than Troubles-related sexual offences.”
The bill would also halt civil cases and inquests linked to killings during the conflict.
Despite the government introducing a string of amendments to the draft legislation, it remains widely opposed by political parties, the Irish government, victims’ groups and human rights organisations.
Peers have since demanded the removal of the contentious immunity provision in the proposed bill, which Cabinet minister Johnny Mercer said he expects to become law within the coming weeks.
Children ‘Deserve Better’
Paul Wilson was just 14 years old when his father was murdered and left Northern Ireland with his mother in the wake of the attack.
The family resettled in England where they have remained since.
Along with his children and grandchildren, he returned to Belfast on Monday where victims group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) and members of the SDLP paid tribute to the party’s founder inside Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
Members of the Ulster Unionist Party, including leader Doug Beattie, were also present.
Wilson told The Epoch Times that Stormont’s two main political parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, were not invited to the event.
“I don’t want divisive politics here,” he said. “I know there’s constitutional issues between the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP and the Alliance, of course, but these are people that are willing to work together for the benefit of the people given a chance.
“In 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed it give the people of Northern Ireland the power in their hands to decide their own future. I don’t think they realise how much power they’ve got.
“They’re the ones that make the decision, the ones outside making the noise with the drums and the flags, can’t win anything on their own, it’s impossible.”
The grandfather said he wanted to see a better future not only for his grandchildren, but others, so that no other child faced the instability, trauma and grief he suffered as a child.
He said, “There’s no solution coming from Dublin, there’s no solution coming from Westminster, there’s no solution coming from Washington.
‘The solutions to the problems that we have at the minute can only be sorted out in Northern Ireland. Unless the politicians here are willing to grasp the nettle and deal with the issues that are difficult to deal with but need to be dealt with, we’re not going to change.”
“My grandchildren and the grandchildren that live in Northern Ireland deserve what’s better than what’s happening at the minute.”
At present, Northern Ireland has no functioning government as the DUP continues to block the devolved institutions in a protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.
The party has insisted it will not return to Stormont until it secures further legislative assurances from the UK government around sovereignty and trade.
Wilson added: “If the politicians were doing what they were supposed to do, it will give people an opportunity to see that there’s a future to see that there’s a progress, step-by-step-by-step. At the minute there’s nothing, they’re not just waiting on there’s nobody presenting any vision for them.”
The 64-year-old said the decision to not hold any hate in his heart towards those who murdered his father was made easier by the fact his family left Northern Ireland at the height of the conflict.
He urged those who uphold the peace deal signed 25 years ago, to continue to improve the lives of those living in the province.
“The Good Friday Agreement we signed off in 1998 wasn’t wasn’t a magic wand, it gives us the basis to work from,” he said.
“The progress that’s been made over 25 years is minimal.
“Okay, well, we’re not killing each other but we’re not presenting people with a vision for the future and what we can improve on people’s lives.”
Speaking at Monday’s Stormont event, SEFF director Kenny Donaldson—who organised the memorial—said there was an opportunity 25 years ago to “cement” relationships in Northern Ireland, but “just like a candle, it flickered out.”
He added: “And we’ve had a very difficult period, particularly over the last 12-15 years, and there’s a need to recalibrate where we’re going.”
He added that organisations and institutions had to “do better” at calling out the glorification of violence.
“I would say to folk who are in this room today from all political parties: don’t get complacent, don’t think that this place is settled, because, in communities on the ground, it’s far from it.”