A fine display of solidarity by veterans in London

Morning View
Morning View

In one respect it was magnificent to see military veterans of the Northern Ireland Troubles protesting in Westminster and Downing Street on Saturday.

In another respect it was grim to think that it has come to this, and that elderly former soldiers have had to take to the streets in defence of other elderly soldiers.

But this was an essential protest and we hope that there will be more and more of them.

The mainland media and politicians have been able to see quickly what hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland know, but something to which people here are almost inured – that IRA leaders enjoy a de facto amnesty.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, then how many such leaders have been arrested since 1998?

That of course could change at any point.

Prosecutors could issue charges tomorrow on anybody. This paper supports their independence and accepts that they have a difficult role to play and that they cannot divulge certain information.

We do not think the legacy scandal – for it is a scandal – is rooted in any one office or is part of any wider conspiracy.

It is partly a result of the forgiveness that Northern Ireland society has shown towards terror, in a bid to put the past behind us. The state treated terrorists lightly and there was never a post-1998 public demand for prosecutions of them.

But now there would need to be scores of charges of terrorists to bring balance to the soldier charges. The state killed less than 10% of the Troubles dead. Most of those killings were not illegal and almost none were premeditated.

The DUP and NIO still have faith in the Stormont House Agreement. This is optimistic, but if we go down the route of a Historical Investigations Unit then it must be vastly better funded then SHA proposed to ensure it leads to terrorist trials on a large scale. Republicans wanted this approach to the past, but if they get it, then it cannot be on solely their terms.