Ben Lowry: We are collapsing into an all-round Troubles amnesty

Meeting of Defence Select Committee, Westminister, in March to discuss Northern Ireland veterans
Meeting of Defence Select Committee, Westminister, in March to discuss Northern Ireland veterans

It came almost as if on cue.

The Defence Committee report this week which recommended a statute of limitations for armed forces members, covering Troubles-related incidents, up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, then said this:

“It would also be a matter for the next government to decide, after appropriate consultations, whether the statute of limitations should cover all Troubles-related incidents.”

You will have heard howls of outrage this week from some republicans and their apologists over this recommendation of statute of limitations for police and army.

But there seemed to be no real sense of outrage.

Many of these people would be happy with the suggestion in the report: a de facto amnesty all round, for security forces and paramilitary alike, so long as there was a continuation of all the inquiries into the state.

This is almost exactly the wrong way to go about things. It means that we collapse into an amnesty, and then a vast army of findings against the state continue, so that republicans win the narrative.

I suggest a different way of moving forward.

Since republicans want this approach to the past, of no amnesties and legacy investigations, then we should give it to them.

But first we need a standalone Conservative government, if there is one on June 9, to commission a full audit of the amount of taxpayer cash that has been spent investigating the state over the last decade: the legacy inquests so far, the PSNI legacy branch probes into state wrongdoing, the Ombudsman historic probes and, perhaps most important of all, the precise amount of legal aid that has been paid to the many anti state cases in the Northern Ireland courts.

Then it would be reasonable to even-up investigative funding radically, so it is pro rata to Troubles deaths (ie 90% on terrorists), and push ahead with large-scale prosecutions, also on a pro rata basis.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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