Jim Allister: Info gathered in legacy inquests must also get immunity from prosecution

TUV Leader Jim Allister hosts a Memorial Day to the victims of terrorism in the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, last month. Guest speakers included (pictured in the front row) relatives of IRA murder victims, David Kelly,  and Ken Funston. 
Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
TUV Leader Jim Allister hosts a Memorial Day to the victims of terrorism in the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, last month. Guest speakers included (pictured in the front row) relatives of IRA murder victims, David Kelly, and Ken Funston. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

A key component of ‘The Peace Process’ was to so sanitise the victim-makers as to deem them fit for government.

No surprise, then, that from that position Sinn Fein makes completion of the sanitisation project its priority – even as the price for a government.

Hence, the obscenity of rewriting terrorists as freedom fighters and victims of “the British state”.

Thus, legacy is the latest tool of the republican movement.

The fact that the apparatus of the state, in particular legacy inquests, has become the means to their end only adds to their perverse pleasure – a perversity illustrated by the pretext that such inquests are essential to Article 2 rights (the right to life)!

In allowing this to happen the authors of ‘The Stormont House Agreement’ have much to answer for.

They fell head long into the Sinn Fein trap by agreeing to special status and ring fenced funding for “legacy inquests” – theatres for vilification of the state and those who stood between society and the terrorists who were daily denying so many the right to life.

What a “fresh start” for the terrorists.

Rectifying this mess is far from easy, especially as the same desire for power that drove the DUP to agree to it in the first place still dominates the thinking of those desperate to get Stormont up and running again.

The target of “legacy inquests” is the state and its alleged shortcomings, while the perpetrators of the terrorism continue to go scot free.

From such inquests will flow directions for police and prosecutory action – with soldiers and policemen put in the dock, while such terrorists as were convicted walked free under the Belfast Agreement and others enjoy the benefits of their comfort letters.

This distortion is compounded by the fact that under another limb of the Stormont House proposals, the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR), the terrorists have the luxury of anonymously providing an untested version of “the truth” relating to their various murderous exploits with the added comfort of anything they say having immunity and incapable of use by HIU, prosecutors or anyone else pursuing justice.

Nothing provided to the ICIR by terrorists can be passed to any law enforcement agency, but legacy inquests can lead to criminal proceedings.

So, prosecutions can flow from information gathered through legacy inquests, but not from ‘confessions’ made to the ICIR.

Surely, the least that should happen in terms of bringing equality to these processes is that the same immunity and prohibitions should apply in respect of anything garnered in the legacy inquests.

Such might be a more legally tenable solution than selective application of a statute of limitations, which is likely ultimately to lead to a general amnesty for all, terrorists included.

• Jim Allister is an MLA for North Antrim and is the leader of the TUV