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‘No surprise’ Legacy Act discussed by leaders

“It’s not surprising” that the UK’s Legacy Act was discussed during a conversation between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last night, Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

“It’s not surprising that that issue was raised, because it is contentious,” Mr Ryan said.

“I believe we were absolutely right to take the course of action we have in diplomatic and courteous manner, but standing up for human rights and the rule of law in effect.

Mr Ryan said that he understands from European officials that the legislation which secured the DUP’s return to power-sharing “won’t infringe on the single market.”

“That’s really important. It’s fundamental to our freedoms and the movement of goods as well as people, so I hope that that was the case,” Mr Ryan said.

During a call between Mr Varadkar and Mr Sunak, the UK leader confronted his counterpart about his government’s “disappointment” over Ireland’s decision to legally challenge the UK’s response to the Troubles.

Laws enacted by the UK government aim to provide a limited form of immunity to those accused of Troubles-related offences.

The move has faced staunch criticism and is opposed by many victims’ groups in Northern Ireland and all the main Stormont parties.

In its application, the Irish Government will argue that the provisions of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 are incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the convention.

The call between the pair came after Mr Varadkar announced in December that the Irish Government would legally challenge the UK over the Legacy Act in the European Court of Human Rights.

He said at the time that the “strong” legal advice was the UK Legacy Act breached the United Nations’ Convention on Human Rights.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The leaders addressed the Irish Government’s launching of an interstate case on the UK government’s Legacy Act.”

Mr Sunak expressed his disappointment at the timing and course of action in December, coming at such a sensitive time.

“He noted that the Irish government had yet to respond to important questions about its own approach to legacy issues, including with regard to investigations into the 1998 Omagh bombing.

“The UK government would continue to pursue answers to those questions which had been laid out by the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, including with regard to the lack of criminal prosecutions in Ireland.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Sunak denied the conversation had been terse.

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