Legacy Scandal: '˜Republicans relentlessly blacken security forces to re-write history,' says Orange chief

In the latest essay in our series on the legacy imbalance, Iain Carlisle says the current legacy system, and the new proposals, do little to address the already disproportionate level of investigation applied to killings attributed to the state (see beneath the article for links to other articles in the series):

Saturday, 1st September 2018, 9:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th September 2018, 5:18 pm
The murdered brethren memorial stained-glass window at Schomberg House in east Belfast, paying tribute to the 336 members killed by terrorists

The Orange Institution has a proud record of service and sacrifice, not only in global conflicts but also at home, where a high proportion of its members served in the security forces during the 40-year terrorist campaign.

Three-hundred-and-thirty-six members were murdered during this period — almost 10% of all those killed in the Troubles.

The youngest victim was 18 years old, the eldest aged 86.

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Nearly half of our murdered members were serving, or had served, with the Ulster Defence Regiment; while a quarter were current or former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Over 600 children were bereaved as the result of the loss of a parent who was a member of the Orange Institution.

In addition to those murdered, many hundreds of our members have suffered life changing physical, mental and emotional injuries as a direct consequence of the terror campaign.

Sadly, a substantial number of these murders and attacks on our members remain unsolved.

Iain Carlisle, chief executive of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland

Whilst more than half of those killed were singled out because they were serving their community in the security forces, others were targeted simply because they were Protestants and members of the Orange Institution.

Countless tragic personal stories litter the history of Orangeism in the past 50 years.

The most recent was the murder of Brother David Black, a serving member of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, by republicans on November 1, 2012. The trial of those accused of his murder has recently collapsed, and yet another family is left without justice.

The Orange Institution is resolute in its conviction that in any proposed structures to deal with the legacy of the past there must be no equivalence made between these innocent victims and the terrorists — who were the victim-makers.

In 2007, Grand Lodge formed the ‘Murdered Brethren Committee’ to begin the process of creating a permanent memorial to our slain members. In 2011, a Memorial Stone was unveiled at our headquarters at Schomberg House.

The inscription reads: ‘In proud remembrance of all brethren and sisters who were murdered, or otherwise lost their lives, due to the terrorist campaign in Ulster.’

In 2014, a memorial window was commissioned for inclusion in the new Museum of Orange Heritage.

The window is situated alongside a digitised memorial book which pays tribute to all our murdered members.

In 2015, Grand Lodge produced a moving film entitled ‘Strong to Survive,’ which tells the story of some of those murdered. It also features interviews with surviving members who explain how the terrorist campaign affected them personally.

Yet for those left to grieve, memorials and remembrance events, however important, are no substitute for justice.

The republican movement continues its process of attempting to re-write the history of the period now rather benignly referred to as the ‘Troubles’.

Their narrative aims to ensure that in future, those who examine the period will consider that their campaign of terror was somehow justified, and that all sides share in the blame for the causes and consequences of the decades of suffering.

Republicanism’s relentless effort to blacken the name of our security forces conveniently ignores the statistical fact that republicans were responsible for 60% of all deaths, loyalists for 30%, and the security forces for 10% — many of which were terrorists killed whilst engaging in murderous activities.

The current system, and the new proposals (which are out to public consultation), do little to address the already disproportionate level of investigation applied to those killings attributed to the state.

Ambiguity continues around the much-contested definition of a victim. These proposals bring no clarity on this matter — indeed the current consultation manages to avoid using the term ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’.

Many innocent victims and their families have lost hope of ever finding answers or justice.

The early release of many of those convicted of some of the worst atrocities, coupled with the subsequent revelations around so called ‘letters of comfort’ issued to dozens of terrorists, have caused immense hurt, frustration and despair amongst innocent victims.

There are many anomalies and areas of concern in the latest proposals on how to deal with the legacy of the past.

The remit of the new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) is solely to examine deaths — therefore many of the most indiscriminate and brutal terrorist attacks which created thousands of injured victims will receive no investigation by this unit.

Without new evidence, which is liable to lead to a prosecution, those families who have already had their cases examined by HET cannot expect any new investigation by HIU.

There will also be a continuing disparity in the disproportionate examination of killings attributed to state forces due to the lack of evidence/records available concerning the actions of terrorist groups.

Other proposed structures such as an Oral History Archive (OHA) are equally unsatisfactory. Leading republicans have already shown their contempt for ‘truth recovery’ when citing the IRA oath as a reason not to discuss certain matters.

Others have under oath, been less than truthful about their role in the terrorist campaign.

The creation of any entity which facilitates the submission and archiving of untested, anonymised information is entirely at risk of simply becoming another vehicle to re-write history.

Such mechanisms will provide a further opportunity to reinforce a narrative of state violence and collusion, whilst offering no safeguards to ensure that truth, historical accuracy and perhaps most importantly, proportionality are paramount.

The current proposals do nothing to help counter the attempts to create equivalence between victim and victim maker, and as such, will not command the confidence of innocent victims or their families.

The lack of any provision for the injured or any suggestion as to how to deal with the emotional trauma of those most closely affected further highlight the document’s inadequacies.

Reconciliation requires truth and justice — but above all, reconciliation can only begin when there is a full and sincere admission by those involved in the terror campaign that their actions were criminally and morally wrong and wholly unjustified.

• Iain Carlisle is chief executive of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. The public consultation on the government’s legacy paper closes on Monday September 10