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The Briefing

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 16th July

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 16th July Banner

by Aiken PR

16/07/2021

How can we be expected to move on if we have not dealt with past?

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland this week laid bare the UK Government’s proposals for Legacy Legislation which Boris Johnson stated would “draw a line” under the outstanding issues from the Troubles. Included within the proposals is a statute of limitations that would effectively give amnesty to not only all soldiers that served in Northern Ireland, but all paramilitaries as well and the proposed legislation also includes plans to end to all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

In terms of ‘drawing a line’, the proposals would seem to brush legacy issues under the carpet rather than provide closure and support to families from all sides who have lost loved ones as a result of the conflict. Especially when you consider that there are 36 outstanding legacy inquests due to be heard, many relating to Army and Police killings of civilians along with more than 1,000 civil claims lodged against the Ministry of Defence and other state agencies. The opposition to such proposals is united and resounding.
The sweeping nature of the proposals has given way to an unholy alliance of opposition which includes the five main political parties in Stormont, the Irish Government, and several victims’ groups, who have all been highly critical of what is essentially an amnesty for all those engaged in violence. Whilst each voice of opposition may come from a different perspective on why a blanket ban is totally unjust, one thing they do all agree on is that such a ban is exactly that, totally unjust.

The UK Government seem to consider this the ‘least worst’ option, with Brandon Lewis stating when he announced the legislation: “We know that the prospect of the end of criminal prosecutions will be difficult for some to accept, and this is not a position that we take lightly. But we have arrived at the view that this would be the best way to facilitate an effective information retrieval and provision process, and the best way to help Northern Ireland move further along the road to reconciliation. It is a painful recognition of the reality of where we are.”

The leaders of the major parties at Stormont met with Brandon Lewis this morning, with the media reporting a frank exchange over the legacy proposals before it was agreed that there would be more talks on the proposed legislation over the summer. The Stormont Party Leader’s forum are due to meet on Monday to discuss the matter amongst themselves and after a proposal from Nichola Mallon, the assembly will be recalled next week to discuss the matter as a whole.

Despite such ferocious opposition, the fact is that when Boris Johnson’s Government with its significant majority, sets off in a direction of travel, they usually succeed. However, such a united voice from Stormont is a rarity and it may serve to exert pressure on the UK government’s decision. The age–old question still rings true: how can we be expected to move on if we have not dealt with past? And Boris Johnson’s carpet and brush approach certainly does not answer that question, nor does it serve the thousands of victims and their families.

NI

Update on Health

• The number of new Covid cases reported in Northern Ireland is “concerning”, Health Minister Robin Swann has said. More than 1,000 new cases of Covid–19 have been reported over the past 24 hours. It is the highest figure that has been recorded since the peak of cases in January.

Update on Employment

• The number of workers on company payrolls in Northern Ireland surpassed pre–pandemic levels in June, official data suggests. The figures showed an estimated 757,200 employees in June, above the level in February 2020.

Update on Economy

• Northern Ireland’s economy continued to recover strongly in June, but inflationary pressures are building in some sectors, the results of an Ulster Bank survey suggest. The survey highlighted that Private sector firms have best quarter since 2014.

Update on Travel

• People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid–19 in the UK will no longer have to self–isolate when they arrive into Northern Ireland from an amber country from Monday, 19 July.

Update on Trade

• A haulage industry group has said a lack of drivers will have a detrimental impact on our economy. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates the sector in Northern Ireland needs thousands of people.

Update on Brexit

• A Brexit row over sausages is a “red herring” but bigger problems are looming, Northern Ireland businesses have told MPs. A proposed ban on fresh GB sausages in NI is a consequence of the Protocol, a deal between the UK and EU. It is due to take effect in October but other parts of the Protocol are more important, the leaders said.

• Increased cross–border trade in Ireland as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol is “in many ways a problem”, UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost has said. Lord Frost said this was a problem as it showed Northern Ireland firms cannot use their first choice suppliers.

Update on Hospitality

• Stormont ministers have been urged to publish a dedicated strategy to help Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry recover after Covid–19 lockdowns. Hospitality Ulster’s chief executive Colin Neill said restrictions mean many businesses still cannot trade normally.

ROI

Update on Health

• The Chief Executive of the HSE has said that more younger people are being referred to hospital with Covid–19, and that there is concern over long–Covid for younger people.

Update on Vaccines

• The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it was analysing data on rare cases of a nerve disorder reported among recipients of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Covid–19 vaccine, after the United States added a warning label to the shot.

Update on Hospitality

• Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that the Government is targeting Monday, 26 July as the date for reopening indoor hospitality settings. Under the Government’s plans, fully vaccinated people will be able to go to a pub or restaurant indoors, with 26 July the date targeted for reopen.

• The Chief Medical Officer has advised parents that it is safer not to bring children into indoor dining settings and this is the “responsible public health advice”.

Update on Travel

• US President Joe Biden has said the United States is reviewing when it can lift restrictions that ban most–non US citizens from traveling to the US from much of Europe. The ban on non–US citizens travelling to the US from most of Europe has been in effect since the early days of the pandemic, imposed by then–US President Donald Trump in March 2020.

Update on Housing

• The Central Bank has said more action is needed from mortgage lenders to deal with long term mortgage arrears. Deputy Governor Ed Sibley said there are wider issues associated with the legacy of mortgage arrears including the cost of credit for all borrowers and the attractiveness of the Irish mortgage market for new entrants.