With military dignity on Saturday, Sir Robert Pascoe recounted the fine work of the British army during the Troubles.
In Lisburn to mark 50 years since the commencement of Operation Banner, Sir Robert — who led Op Banner in the mid 1980s — outlined some of the rapidly forgotten history. He told how the troops were initially welcomed in Catholic areas with cups of tea. How the mood changed and soldiers, who numbered 20,000 at their peak, tried to constrain terrorists and sap their will.
Sir Robert was speaking at a major commemoration to mark the half centenary of deployment, alongside ex servicemen and politicians including DUP leader Arlene Foster.
The problem though is that only the converted seem to be listening. No matter how patiently the merits of the army during that time are cited, no matter how many times the statistics of the dead are underlined, no matter how easily the lie of widespread collusion is disproved by the small number of IRA deaths, a hostile narrative on the role of the UK advances.
Not only that, but the whole process of legacy seems to be panning out the way that so many human rights and academics and political pressure groups want it to pan out: of a baseline in which state forces and terrorist are seen as having equal culpability and equal amounts to answer.
Meanwhile the security forces are being judged to a sub criminal standard in which the lower burden of proof (balance of probabilities) makes it much easier for hunches to find their way into formal findings. This is an outrage.
While Saturday’s ceremony was appropriate and uplifting, such occasions are separate to the major legal and political battle that will be necessary to counter the lies and distortions of terrorists and their apologists.
As an elementary first step, the British government must make clear to the IRA that its relentless lawfare in legal actions will not only be resisted but matched in funding to help terrorist victims get redress in the civil courts.