Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement we must reflect as to the success of the process and learn from it.
In doing so we have to recognise that it is by no means the place we were meant to be in 2018 – for any of those involved.
Like many well-meaning things, the peace process was imperfect. But I am sure that many of those that bought it into being believed that the obvious flaws would be eroded away by the tide of time and the aspiration of the youth of the country to leave the sectarian trenches and join in a no-mans land of reality to make a garden.
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The flaw was numerous ‘give aways’ agreed to by Tony Blair and his side kick Peter Hain, on the warped assumption that the decent men and women who took the risks for peace would remain in power.
Sadly the parties that took the risk for peace in 1998 – the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have had their clothes stolen by the DUP and Sinn Fein as they moved into the middle ground.
Here we are 20 years later. The DUP – who never fully embraced the peace process, are stagnant through a failure to attract quality politicians and relying on a sectarian headcount at elections for success rather than progressive policies.
Sinn Fein, on the other, hand view the modern world with nervousness. With the IRA in light preservation — with only the occasional murder — a more pressing problem is the information age and enlightenment.
How long can a party based on sectarian hate and conflict exist?
Even with Gerry Adams in the shadows now with Mary Lou McDonald as the face of the movement, their main effort remains threefold:
Firstly a distortion of the legacy of the Troubles and a fabricated historical narrative that obscures their sectarian murderous past by blackening the name of the British state by a huge volume of inquires into — anything — all paid for by the UK taxpayer.
A key platform is the lie of collusion — which if it there was a grain of truth in it would have seen the IRA leadership wiped out.
Secondly to demoralise the Protestant population by attacking their traditions — and very existence in Ireland as a wrong that must be righted.
And thirdly attacking, verbally or reputationally, those who espouse liberal, cross community sentiment in order to erode the little glue that binds the society in Northern Ireland and who might, just, bring about a balanced tolerant society which will abhor parties rooted in violence like SF or unionists with little new to say.
Their calculation — correctly –—relies on the three things; distorted statistics and the state rigorously pursuing an agenda of appeasing Sinn Fein and a ill informed and sympathetic left wing media eager to peddle the lies.
The first is a distortion of investigations in to deaths caused during the Troubles. This myth once more relies on the acceptance that whilst republicans were responsible for over 60% of the killings, so-called loyalists around 30% and the state 10%.
In fact ALL republicans killings were murder, ALL Loyalist killings were murder and almost all shootings by the security forces were within the legal duty of policemen and soldiers to discharge their weapons in self defence or in defence of those who it was their duty to protect.
So with 99% of murders attributable to paramilitaries how come the focus on the state?
By pouring resources into prosecuting military personnel in Northern Ireland in order to establish what they view as a ‘parity of blame’ to dilute their blood-soaked criminal past.
This fantasy became reality relying heavily on apathy in Westminster and a lack of interest and leadership within the politically correct British military.
In this vein we have seen former servicemen pursued for murder and attempted murder charges with almost no hope of successful prosecution.
The enthusiasm in the BBC and others to promote the distorted history is easily the most successful plank of their strategy. A perfect trinity.
Where does the government stand on this? Rudderless, the current government has bigger fish to fry as far as it is concerned.
The alternative, a Labour government, would be worse. Rather than ambivalent, they would be sympathetic to Sinn Fein and the pace of the witch-hunt would quicken into a blood sport against former soldiers (with the right-on military leadership looking away and shouting about female Gurkhas and transgender toilets on warships).
Meanwhile there is no organised campaign to bring IRA killers to justice, indeed historically governments have sought to reduce the prospect of prosecutions for IRA terrorists, some of whom are now in the ranks of elected Sinn Fein politicians.
Worse still, the current government consultation paper on ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’ proposes that families of IRA and loyalist victims who had their loved ones cases reviewed, not investigated, by the former Historical Enquiries Unit are not entitled to a proper criminal investigation in the murders in the future.
Where should soldiers turn? Napoleon once said ‘never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake’.
Under Peter Hain’s leadership in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the flawed arrangement that resulted in hundreds of letters of comfort republicans.
In effect these letters drew a line under their crimes and unless new evidence came along they were closed cases, including one sent to the Hyde Park bomb suspect John Downey.
Whilst the PSNI had advised the NIO that Downey, was not wanted in Northern Ireland, the NIO changed the wording and informed him that he wasn’t wanted by any UK police force, which was incorrect.
This project to send letters was a political one to side step the rejection in parliament of legislation that would have given an effective amnesty to IRA killers as part of a deal to keep the IRA from returning to violence.
So I say to all of you policemen and soldiers out there, lets have the same!
I urge every former British soldier who served in Northern Ireland and also retired police officers, to write to the chief constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, the Home Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary and Police Ombudsman for NI, outlining the dates of their service in NI or on counter IRA terrorist operations overseas and asking: ‘Am I under investigation? And if so what am I under investigation for?’
If Sinn Fein had the right to ask these questions and get a written response then our gallant servicemen and police officers deserve an answer.
This is not seeking to excuse the tiny fraction of servicemen who blackened the name of our noble security forces by their evil deeds and whose actions I abhor as much as I do paramilitary murder. This was Sinn Fein’s idea.
All we ask is the same. If there is no leadership in the British military then we have no choice to demand the same as the criminals got.
What will be the effect? The chief constable can look forward to 100,000 to 200,000 letters.
The issue will become a national one with servicemen demanding and requiring their MPs, including Labour, Plyd Cyrmu, The Scots Nationalist and Lib Dems as well as Conservatives for swift answers.
The government will have to act and we may just see the end of this charade.
Will it help the families of victims? No. But that was Sinn Fein’s intent in the first place — to take justice away from victims. Their doing, not mine.
And the money saved? Perhaps it can go to providing the jobs, education and welfare to deliver the balanced just future we all envisaged back in 1998.
I have prepared a simple template (see below) for ex-service personnel and police officers to follow. Use the email addresses and it won’t cost you a penny on postage. But remember once you have sent your letter, demand of your MP that she or he robustly pursue a reply.
That is your right and their duty.
• Colonel Collins, who is originally from Belfast, is ex SAS commanded the First Battalion of the Royal Irish regiment in the 2003 Iraq War
• Tomorrow, William Matchett
Col Collins’s suggested template below:
Chief Constable George Hamilton QPM HQ PSNI, 65 Knock Road, Belfast, BT5 6LD, [email protected]
Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,
Stormont House, Belfast, BT4 3SH, [email protected]
Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP Secretary of State for the Home Department, Home Office, Direct Communications Unit, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF, United Kingdom, [email protected]
(For Police only) Dr Michael Maguire, Police Ombudsman’s Office, New Cathedral Buildings, Writers’ Square, 11 Church Street, Belfast, BT1 1PG, [email protected]
Insert the name of your MP here
Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA, Insert your address for replies and the date here
I, insert you name and number here, served honourably in Northern Ireland if in defence of my country and upholding the law during the periods insert dates of your service in NI here. Am I under investigation by The PSNI/ Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland? And if so, please inform me of the details of the date, place and the alleged offences for which I am under investigation.