Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has spoken out against the British government's Troubles Legacy bill, which is making its way through the UK parliament.

The Tánaiste said the British government's unilateral approach to legacy issues risked breaking trust with the principles on which peace has been built.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy think-tank in Washington DC, Mr Martin said: "I fear that, if implemented, this bill would break trust in the very principles on which peace has been built, setting back reconciliation and keeping wounds open.

"It holds out the possibility of immunity for perpetrators of gross violations of human rights and closes off avenues to justice - undermining hard won confidence in the rule of law and the justice system. This will damage individuals. It will hold back society".

The bill – The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill – is currently in committee stage at Westminster.

Mr Martin said: "This bill is opposed by all Northern Ireland political parties, by victims' groups, by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and by the Council of Europe. It is opposed by Westminster’s own human rights committee. Just recently, 27 members of the US House of Representatives wrote to the Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak) to voice their opposition."

He said Ireland "as a co-guarantor of the agreement, and as a friend and partner of the UK, we are urging the British government to reconsider their approach. A collective approach based on consent, inclusion and rights has underpinned every step of progress in the peace process - legacy should be no different".

In his speech, Mr Martin also said that the Good Friday Agreement's requirement that the European Convention of Human Rights be incorporated into law offered the foundations for a reset in Northern Ireland.

Last weekend several newspapers in the UK reported renewed interest among government minsters for leaving the European Convention on Human Rights because it was seen as hampering British immigration and asylum policy.

The issue was also raised last year by then prime minister Boris Johnson, again on immigration policy grounds, after the European Court of Human Rights had ruled against British plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

During his short visit to Washington, Mr Martin is meeting a number of political figures in Congress and the Biden administration including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan - to brief them on developments in the negotiations between the EU and the UK on implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Tánaiste said the war in Ukraine and the radically changed geopolitical situation had brought about a feeling in European politics that it was important for the EU, the US, the UK, Canada, Japan and other like minded democracies to be closely aligned on major issues like energy, migration, food security.

He said: "That's the compelling reason I think for resolution of this issue - plus the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement coming up."

He said from his conversations with unionist and nationalist leaders there is an awareness that if the Stormont institutions were not operating at the time of the anniversary in April, "it would not be a good look, and I would hope that the prospect of the 25th anniversary would motivate people to start to resolve these issues".