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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 00:50 GMT 01:50 UK

UK Politics

'Disappeared' bill clears Commons

The search for the graves is set to continue

A bill paving the way for locating the graves of people abducted and killed by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland has cleared the Commons in less than three days.

The Search for Peace
The Northern Ireland (Location of Victims' Remains) Bill, setting up an independent commission to help find the so-called "disappeared" was given a third reading by 324 votes to five - a majority of 319.

The move is chiefly intended to end the ordeal of relatives of those who were kidnapped and murdered by the IRA in the 1970s and '80s.

It now goes to the Lords after rushing through its Commons stages in just two sittings.

The bill prevents information provided to help locate the remains of the paramilitary victims during the last 30 years being used in criminal proceedings.

[ image: Adam Ingram:
Adam Ingram: "Unique set of circumstances"
Instead the information would be passed to an international commission which would be given the task of identifying the locations of the remains of people.

Opening the bill's third reading debate on Wednesday, Northern Ireland Minister of State Adam Ingram again denied that this amounted to an "amnesty " for the killers.

The government has said information from other sources could still be used to bring the perpetrators to justice.

'End suffering'

The BBC's David Eades: "The bodies have never been found, they are among the disappeared"
Mr Ingram said: "We want to end the suffering of the families of the disappeared. We are dealing with a unique set of circumstances and it's about taking a risk to alleviate the suffering these families have had to put up with for far too long."

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Andrew Mackay called the bill "obnoxious", and condemned the killings as a "blot on Irish history".

But he said he shared the government's view that the sensitivities of the victims' relatives were paramount.

He urged those holding the information about the whereabouts of the remains to come forward once the Bill became law.

"It would be a disgrace if they did not," he said.

Tory former Cabinet Minister Sir Brian Mawhinney rejected Mr Ingram's defence of the bill as a "humanitarian" measure.

He said it was instead "a piece of cynicism driven by the IRA, derived out of a propaganda need to take some of the pressure of them" during talks on Ulster's future.

He said the bill was "deplored by some of those at the very heart of the benefit that will, or may, accrue from the passage of this legislation".

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10 May 99 | UK Politics
Disappeared Bill 'no amnesty'

09 May 99 | UK
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Help us find bodies - IRA

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