One of the most concerning aspects when it comes to legacy is the absence of any will on the part of the British state to defend itself, its reputation and its security forces who were in the firing line for three decades.
Instead of successive UK governments — not least some key public officials and the Northern Ireland Office — mounting a robust defence of its police officers and soldiers and setting their actions in the context of the terror campaign they faced — we have witnessed a meek acceptance of any hint of criticism and the default position lends itself to the republican narrative of the Troubles.
Instead of this subservience, the story that should have been told — to the British people, the world in general, and especially to the European judges in Strasbourg — was that during the Troubles, republican terrorists accounted for 60% of total Troubles deaths, loyalist terrorists for 30% and State forces for 10%.
Those figures alone demonstrate the incredible restraint shown by the police and army, and expose the republican lie of a brutal war of oppression waged by a colonial power.
If the British state and its forces had truly been running amok in Northern Ireland for three decades, then — given the training, manpower, intelligence and weaponry available to it — it would have been responsible for significantly more than 10% of deaths.
Moreover, if collusion had been systematic and organised as republicans claim, then just how did so many terrorists survive the Troubles and go on to become Sinn Fein politicians?
Surely they can’t all have been informants?
Legacy is a huge issue that has cast a shadow over political life here for decades.
We have paid too high a price to allow republicans to drive the narrative and establish a process that will place the state and individual police officers and soldiers in the dock and seek to create a narrative of wrong-doing, and in the process back up the IRA’s big lie that they were fighting some kind of ‘just war’ rather than a bloody terrorist campaign.
Shamefully we have almost reached a fantasy land where the police and soldiers who risked their lives on a daily basis throughout the Troubles — and who were targets on and off duty — are being viewed with suspicion, whilst mass murderers are being lauded as freedom fighters and advocates for rights and equality.
It is bordering on the delusional when some commentators seriously question why so few police and troops served jail time, when thousands of republicans did.
This totally misses the fact that the equivalent to those terrorists held in republican wings at the Maze, were those terrorists held on the loyalist wings.
Their every act and very existence was illegal, and they have no equivalence with the lawful forces of the state, who had — and still have — the legal right to carry arms and use lethal force. This is why police forces the world over are allowed to carry guns, and use them if required.
The Ulster Unionist Party remains concerned at the implications for former RUC officers and soldiers should the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) agreed at Stormont House come into being.
It would be a parallel police force, which would be let loose on state archives, scrutinising the actions of police officers during the Troubles, whilst of course being unable to open up any equivalent records held by the terrorists responsible for 90% of deaths during the Troubles.
The original proposals also provided for the curious charge of ‘non-criminal police misconduct’, which was clearly designed to do what it says on the tin and go after the RUC and PSNI with a vengeance, in a bid to re-write history.
Are the government and the NIO really saying that non-criminal misconduct is worth investigating as part of HIU, but that serious crime that just falls short of murder is not?
What kind of justice is that?
It has been shameful to watch on as Westminster governments, the NIO and even the PSNI, has found it expedient to give tread softly when dealing with those who promulgated republican violence and their Sinn Fein cheerleaders, instead of standing up for those they gave authority too in order to defend the terrorised from the terrorist.
Rather than cave into the vexatious and un-ending claims of republicans, it’s time we saw meaningful investigations into themes such as Sinn Fein’s links to the IRA, where the IRA raised its money, where it went, and who profited from it?
No government worthy of the name would cast aside the men and women who bravely put on uniforms and instantly became targets for murder gangs.
It is now time for the government to speak up and that means allowing the NIO and senior management team in the police to speak up in their own defence, rather than meekly accept the republican narrative.”
• Doug Beattie is an Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann and the party’s justice spokesperson