IT is some kind of achievement, I suppose, to unite all sides in Northern Ireland in opposition to you. But that’s what Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis managed on Wednesday when he stood up in the Commons to announce that the Westminster government intended to introduce a statute of limitations on prosecutions related to the Troubles before 1998.

And not only prosecutions. The government also seeks to end all civil cases and all inquests, including any that may already be in process. And it wants to get this all into legislation by late autumn.

All five of Northern Ireland’s political parties, including Sinn Fein and the DUP, as well as the Irish government have denounced this move. More importantly, so have the relatives of Troubles victims. That should surely give Lewis some pause. But what’s the betting that it will?

You have to say that everything about this is shabby. From the intent to the language used. Boris Johnson during Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday had the audacity to stand up and say that this would enable the province of Northern Ireland “to draw a line under the Troubles.” As if that was within his power. The entitled, arrogant ignorance of such a statement is breath-taking. Nothing new from this Prime Minister of course.

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The suspicion has to be that this is about this government governing in the interests of its own backbenchers and the headline writers of the Daily Mail. Johnson himself linked the move with the “vexatious prosecutions” of army veterans. But to do that the proposed statute of limitations also draws a line under the prosecutions of the paramilitaries who were, after all, responsible for the majority of deaths through the Troubles.

And who does that affect? The families of those they killed. The families of soldiers, of police officers, of prison officers, of part-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, of civilians from nationalist areas of Northern Ireland and civilians from unionist areas of Northern Ireland, of cooks and factory workers, of sons and daughters and mothers and fathers and children. And, of course, it affects families in England who lost family members in IRA bombs who will also now not be in a position to get justice if this statute of limitations goes ahead.

As Sandra Peake, the CEO of the Wave Trauma Centre in Belfast, wrote in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph: “To tell people who have suffered unimaginable grief and trauma that what happened to their loved ones is no longer of any interest to the state is perverse and obscene and this from a government that claims to value the rule of law.”

It is true that there is nothing straightforward when it comes to dealing with the legacy of recent Northern Irish history. Obtaining prosecutions as we move further away in time from the horrors of the Troubles inevitably become more and more difficult.

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But the question that needs to be asked where is the upside in this plan? The argument is that it allows Northern Ireland, in the words of Boris Johnson “to move forward.”

But how do you move forward when the pain and trauma of your past has been ruled irrelevant, when you are told that even the slim possibility of justice is no longer your right?