A Westminster debate is today discussing the legacy imbalance in Northern Ireland.
The motion in the DUP opposition day debate acknowledges the service and sacrifices of armed forces and police during Operation Banner in Ulster and other conflict theatres such as Afghanistan.
The motion welcomes the closure of the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (Ihat) and calls for balanced legacy and prosecution processes in NI and elsewhere.
The wording has seemingly been chosen to appeal to MPs in Britain who are outraged at what happened with Ihat and increasingly alarmed at what is happening here. That is a sensible approach. But the motion could have been worded more strongly.
It is right to welcome the closure of Ihat, but there should be a clear call for an equivalently tough response to the scandal in NI, which is in many respects worse. The number of coming trials of elderly soldiers is small – three – but could grow fast after legacy inquests into state killings on which the DUP has rightly stalled but which it has not yet ruled out. The Article 2 ECHR justification for them should be challenged.
The party sets out its plans for today in this newspaper (link below). It is right to woo mainland MPs. It also has to be pragmatic here if there is a chance of Stormont’s return, but the party cannot escape scrutiny over a Stormont House Agreement (SHA) that failed to anticipate the difficulty any historical body will have in prosecuting terrorists to the criminal standard.
This means legacy inquests might have no counterpart. New measures might be needed to ensure terrorists do not emerge almost unscathed from legacy processes amid multiple findings against the state. There is potential cross-party sympathy for such measures if context is explained to GB MPs.
Theresa May’s welcome comments yesterday showed that. But she too referred approvingly to SHA.
Ulster Unionists such as Danny Kinahan, Tom Elliott and Doug Beattie have also made important contributions to this debate.
The party as a whole, however, has in its manifesto missed a chance to challenge legacy shortcomings in SHA.