We need to create a single mechanism to deal with the past

Tom Elliott, Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Tom Elliott, Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone

The Ulster Unionist Party has always been clear that we will not allow the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland to be re-written.

We will not stand for any attempt to warp what happened, placing a disproportionate focus on actions of the state and security forces.

In recent weeks we have heard speculation about the police or security services having prior knowledge of incidents.

Firstly, we have not seen any concrete evidence to back this up. Secondly, and something we must never lose sight of, is that 90% of the murders committed during the Troubles were committed by terrorists, with 60% carried out by republicans. This is not something that can be allowed to be whitewashed by the perpetrators.

Throughout the Haass talks and the subsequent talks at Stormont House, the Ulster Unionist Party argued for a single mechanism to deal with the past, one that would take in the work of the Historical Enquiries Team, the historical investigations function of the Police Ombudsman and, crucially, the legacy cases of the coroners court.

We believed, and still believe, that if a positive case had been made in Europe to move the legacy function of the coroners courts into the new mechanism, they would have considered it.

Given the wealth of records available from the state I am concerned that if we continue as we are the focus will fall unduly on the role of the police and security services.

Those who had their loved ones murdered by terrorists have no such records to access from the terrorists.

Given that the cases referred to the coroners court are more likely to be killings involving the security forces or police, there is likely to be a serious unfairness and imbalance in this system. I am more convinced than ever of the need for a single mechanism.

But let me be clear, I have no problem with the actions of the state coming under scrutiny, but it must be fair, proportionate and in the same context as investigations into all killings.

The focus must be on justice for those who lost their lives and their families, along with those who were injured.

This must always remain the focus, in the face of those who may have an agenda to promote their own propaganda.