The legacy processes for Northern Ireland are broken

Morning View
Morning View

It became more apparent than ever yesterday that the legacy processes for Northern Ireland are broken.

Two elderly soldiers from England are set to be dragged over to the Province next year for a murder trial into the shooting of an IRA man in 1972.

This is a scandal. Past members of the security forces face the threat of investigation for mistakes that they made – real or alleged – during their time in uniform keeping society safe from terrorism.

Soldiers and police officers must adhere to the rule of law and those who commit very serious offences must be prosecuted. But there are two key points to make in response to those important principles.

First, the security forces overwhelmingly did adhere to the rule of law. We know that because they rarely killed IRA terrorists, despite the fact that those terrorists were generally well known to the authorities.

Second, even if on occasion their actions fell short of accepted practice, the context in which they operated – serving amid a paramilitary threat – must be taken into account.

The larger context now of a de facto amnesty for the IRA – with perhaps only occasional prosecutions of terrorists – must also be taken into account.

The outrage of these coming prosecutions show that the whole legacy process must be halted and overhauled.

The coming institutions must be altered to ensure that they focus heavily on terrorists, who carried out 90% of the killings, to counter the focus on the state. Legacy inquests into victims of state violence must not get special funding until it is clear there will be equivalent funding for investigations into IRA killings. Gradually London is coming to see this.

Regrettably Stormont is in chaos, and the DUP’s ability to counter the legacy imbalance will be damaged until the RHI scandal has been examined and explained – which, as this column observed yesterday, it must be.

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Next we will be prosecuting King William for fighting at the Boyne, says target of Joe McCann