The recent furore following Karen Bradley’s remarks seems to have exposed a degree of confusion on the part of some politicians and commentators.
Firstly, everyone should be equal before the law and the law should apply to everyone, whether they be a policeman, soldier, civilian or politician – even dare I say it, a politician.
Secondly, we must never forget that 90% of Troubles related deaths were the result of terrorist murders, whereas only 10% of deaths were due to the security forces.
Thirdly, there needs to be recognition of the fact that the security forces operated under the rule of law as the lawfully constituted forces of the state, whereas terrorists obviously did not.
It is as a result of this that state forces — the police and army — are legally allowed to carry guns and are authorised to use lethal force under specific circumstances.
Terrorist groups are illegal, not permitted to carry weapons and every single action they take is therefore unlawful and a crime.
There is no legal difference between the RUC or army using lethal force to neutralise the threat posed by an IRA terrorist, or the French or Belgian police doing the same to Islamist terrorists such as Islamic State (IS) today, as long as they act within the law.
The fact remains, state forces are legally authorised to use lethal force whilst terrorists can never be.
As a result, not all killings by state forces are in any way a crime and the vast majority will be well within the law.
A small number may be unlawful, and that is for the prosecution service and the courts to decide.
Alan Chambers MLA, Ulster Unionist MLA, North Down