Jeff Dudgeon: It is time for Alliance to address broader legacy issues including the imbalance in Troubles probes

British Army soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Very, very few of the 300 security force killings could ever be described as murder, writes Jeff Dudgeon
British Army soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Very, very few of the 300 security force killings could ever be described as murder, writes Jeff Dudgeon

Trevor Lunn, Alliance MLA for Lagan Valley in his article (‘RUC and Army in the main acted honourably in Troubles, but if there evidence of wrongdoing leads to trials, so be it’, May 4) condemned the proposal for a statute of limitations on the prosecution of soldiers in relation to service in Northern Ireland.

That is not an idea I support, as it would be untenable for one category of people to be so exempt from prosecution.

Jeffrey Dudgeon in Trinity College Dublin, where he was once a student, in his Senate election bid in 2011. Mr Dudgeon is now an Ulster Unionist Party councillor in Belfast. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Jeffrey Dudgeon in Trinity College Dublin, where he was once a student, in his Senate election bid in 2011. Mr Dudgeon is now an Ulster Unionist Party councillor in Belfast. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Having said that, the 1998 Belfast Agreement did permit non-military prisoners freedom after a maximum of two years imprisonment.

The reason this was not applied to military personnel was to avoid any sense of equivalence between intrinsically criminal actions by paramilitaries and the legitimate security forces of the state.

That aspect of the Agreement was one of a number of amnesty-like provisions we have seen in these Troubles.

Mr Lunn wrote, “Murder is murder. The authorities must follow the evidence”, but we already have examples of where that is not the case, not least in the ‘On The Run’ letters also the abandonment of extradition from the Republic.

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn

He can’t have it both ways without being willing to consider the wider issue of amnesty or drawing a line.

Murder is indeed murder but very, very few of the 300 killings by the security forces could ever be so described. The motives involved were at worst arguably mixed or the actions in most cases legitimate.

That was not the case for the 3,000 killings by paramilitaries.

The MLA’s remarks are seriously flawed when he wrote: “The argument that soldiers face more focus into their actions is a fallacy as proven by statistics which show Army actions account for around a third of PSNI legacy investigations.”

Given the 10% of deaths attributable to the police and army, by his words, they are three times more subject to current investigation than the paramilitaries.

In truth, the disproportionality is due to the pressure to re-open every killing involving the security forces – although, most definitely, not including the 1,000 cases where the death involved was that of a soldier or police officer.

The Alliance MLA calls for justice and truth but we know these are difficult concepts to define, let alone provide.

There is no justice in totally disproportionate re-investigations while the notion that all the security files and details on each death should be made public is naïve and dangerous.

Police forces and armies rely almost entirely on intelligence to defeat terrorism.

If those sources, methods, and agents are revealed, their armoury for the future is denuded.

The use of intelligence is how the state avoids descending to the brutality of the paramilitaries.

It is time for the Alliance Party to address the broader issues here not make facile demands.

• Jeffrey Dudgeon is an Ulster Unionist councillor in Belfast

Trevor Lunn: RUC and Army in the main acted honourably in Troubles, but if there evidence of wrongdoing leads to trials, so be it