Attacks on Downing Street’s Troubles legacy plan for Northern Ireland repeatedly ignore the context of de facto amnesty for terrorists

News Letter editorial of Wednesday December 1 2021:

By Editorial
Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 12:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 12:57 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Once again last night we were told that there is total political opposition to a Troubles amnesty.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, said London’s plan is “opposed by every political party in Northern Ireland”.

Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney said the plans lack “the consent of this society; that there is universal opposition towards their amnesty proposals by all victims and survivors”.

Unionist parties have good reason to be upset about the planned (de facto) amnesty, and above all about the way that it was introduced, as a panicked response to the disgraceful imbalance against state forces in both legacy probes and in recent historic prosecutions.

The reasons for that imbalance are many and complex but even so London should have tried to examine and expose them rather than ultimately evade them.

But while it will be a moral outrage for those who calculatedly planned and perpetrated and sustained terrorism over three decades to be protected formally from prosecution, a statute of limitations will be far preferable to the ongoing imbalance against the security forces who prevent civil war.

Yet while the unionist horror at how legacy has unfolded is appropriate, there are problems with repeatedly citing this cross-party opposition to the UK plan. It gives the impression of a shared outlook on legacy when in fact the parties reach the same core position on this latest legacy plan from utterly different perspectives.

It is sickening to hear Sinn Fein, a party that defends past IRA terror, cite the views of “all victims and survivors” when republicans created by far the largest numbers of such victims. Mr Kearney uses the cross-party opposition to London to talk against “the British government” and “its state forces”.

There has already been an effective amnesty for the IRA on both sides of the border for years. The ceaseless attacks on the Downing Street on legacy, partly led by a hypocritical Irish establishment, consistently ignore that context.

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