Legacy Scandal: '˜As innocent victims know, proposals for the past are irredeemably flawed,' says Jim Allister
In the latest essay in on our series on the legacy imbalance, JIM ALLISTER says that given the genesis and nature of the plans to tackle the past, it is no surprise to find Sinn Fein's fingerprints all over them (See beneath the article for links to the rest of the series):
My test for these legacy proposals is twofold: will they actually deliver justice for innocent victims and will they help or hinder the orchestrated republican campaign to rewrite history?
Sadly, they will do little to advance justice for the innocent but much to help the terrorist inspired rewrite of history.
Take the core institution, the Historical Investigation Unit (HIU).
Yes, it can investigate some crimes — but not those cases where there was an HET report, unless fresh evidence is produced or an allegation of police malfeasance is made.
But any crime where the innocent victim survived, no matter how grievously injured, will not be investigated.
They, like HET cases, are written off and the perpetrators continue to go free, but any death with security force involvement is to be prioritised.
If the police killed a terrorist the HIU will be all over it, but if the terrorist killed a policeman, well that depends — did you have an HET report, have you new evidence...
Add to this skewed selectivity the equal function of the HIU to investigate police misconduct and you have the perfect recipe for the vilification of the security forces.
a) the police misconduct investigation will be aided by official police records (terrorists keep no records nor live by codes of conduct)
and b) the threshold for a misconduct charge against a police officer is proof on the balance of probabilities, but a criminal conviction against a terrorist requires proof beyond reasonable doubt.
The government is committed to opening up its files to the HIU.
Even when the secretary of state decides to hold back information on grounds of national security that decision will be open to challenge in the High Court.
How will the IRA’s records be obtained?
Of course they won’t be.
Again the imbalance is obvious.
But won’t the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) unearth the truth?
The extent to which the ICIR is a useless, if not a dangerous, creation is illustrated by the fact that i) it must keep secret the name of anyone giving it information and the name of anyone named as a murderer;
ii) anyone providing information has immunity and any information provided cannot be used in any legal proceedings, including the prosecution of anyone named as liable for criminal acts;
iii) there is no mechanism or means to test the veracity of the information provided;
and iv) at the end of its work all information gathered by the ICIR must be destroyed, though ‘themes’ identified, such as ‘collusion’, will then inform the work of the Information and Reconciliation Group.
So, sadly, what the ICIR offers the innocent victim of the IRA is a version of ‘Provo truth’ which is more likely to seek to justify the murder, as part of their programme of rewriting history, as reveal the truth.
Significantly there is no such process looking into the actions and inactions of the Republic during the Troubles, in spite of it acting as a safe haven for republican terrorists with extradition requests being routinely denied on the grounds that murders were “political” and even the provision of arms and money to the movement in the early 70s.
There were potentially countless cases like that of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Bucannnan where, as Smithwick found, there was “someone within the Garda assisting the IRA” to commit murder.
Yet while the actions of the British government and RUC will go under the microscope there will be no such process for the powers that be in the Republic, though the Dublin government will get to nominate personnel to some of these legacy institutions!
These proposals, as innocent victims realise, are irredeemably flawed.
They are not about delivering justice but are designed to rewrite the terrorist campaign by picking over every real and perceived misdeed by the state while allowing terrorists off the hook.
Given the genesis and nature of these proposals it is no surprise to find Sinn Fein’s fingerprints all over them, but tragic to identify the DUP as their joint midwife.
Make no mistake these are the Sinn Fein/DUP proposals of Stormont House.
It’s time the DUP listened to victims and found reverse gear, like they did when it came to the Maze shrine.
Now that they keep the government in office the DUP has the power to ensure these proposals are binned.
Innocent victims require such delivery.
The new start required for innocent victims must begin with righting the wrong of the iniquitous definition of ‘victim’ which shapes all these proposals and allows equal deference to the victim-maker.
So long as, for example, the Shankill bomber Thomas Begley is as much a victim in law as the nine innocent victims he murdered that day, then, so long will there be no foundation for justice for the innocent victim.
And so long will such obscenities subsist as convicted IRA bomber Robert McClenaghan serving on the Victims’ Forum.
Any proposals which look at the issues of legacy and leave such a perverse definition on the statute book have no interest in delivering for innocent victims, as the current proposals amply demonstrate.
• Jim Allister QC is an assembly member for North Antrim and leader of Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV)
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