Legacy protection for security forces must extend to RUC officers

Morning View

Morning View

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Anniversaries of IRA massacres keep coming round, because there was no shortage of them.

Tomorrow it is 25 years since the Teebane atrocity, when the terror group murdered eight Protestant workmen.

It is one of a large number of grievous IRA crimes in which no one was ever held to account.

The failure to convict many of the most fanatical terrorists was to a large extent because the UK adhered so carefully to the rule of law – and police found it hard to get evidence on accomplished killers and courts found it hard to convict.

A similar difficulty is apparent today, in the woefully low criminal conviction rate for dissident murders since 1998.

Shamefully, however, the so-called legacy processes that look at the outstanding issues from the past have turned to focus overwhelmingly on state wrongdoing. This is despite the fact that the DUP and NIO have rightly stalled on implementing Sinn Fein’s key demand – legacy inquests.

A succession of people in authority have been telling us that this that such inquests into state killings must be held as part of the agreed Stormont House Agreement structures.

It seems, however, that the news that elderly soldiers are facing trial for disputed Troubles killings has focused minds in London. It is reported that the Conservative government is working on legislation that will ensure that legacy investigations focus on the perpetrators – which, in the case of the Troubles, means 90% terrorist.

There are also said to be plans that inquiries into soldiers will face strict limits and that the legacy inquests themselves will face limits.

We can only hope that these reports are correct. Crucially, however, such protections must extend to the RUC who are subject to numerous Ombudsman legacy probes.

It is a pity that things got so badly out of hand in Northern Ireland before London had to step in.