Birmingham should have been one of many probes into IRA

News Letter editorial of Thursday July 29 2021:
News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

If Julie Hambleton is right that a public inquiry into the 1974 IRA Birmingham bombs is a step closer, then that is very good news.

Ms Hambleton, who is sister of a victim of the atrocity, met Priti Patel yesterday to discuss such a probe.

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But the prospect of a Birmingham inquiry merely highlights what could have been on legacy if there had not been such political weakness in the face of the republican onslaught on the past.

An imbalance in historic Troubles investigations has been building for more than a decade, and reached crisis proportions years ago.

What has been happening is stark, yet seems not to be widely appreciated so needs to be stated again and again.

Allegations against the security forces have been the dominant feature of legacy probes. Almost 100 legacy inquests were ordered, which were overwhelmingly deaths in which there were suggestions of state wrongdoing.

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The police ombudsman has a caseload of hundreds of claims against the RUC.

The courts have been cluttered with civil actions against the UK state, almost all of them funded by legal aid.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry lasted more than a decade and cost £200m, while the Ballymurphy inquest became in effect a major public inquiry.

Meanwhile, Op Kenova has become to a large extent focused on claims against the state due to the Glennane aspect. It was also alarming that state elements potentially faced criminal charges in relation to their running of IRA informers, when we should celebrate the penetration of that group.

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It became clear the Stormont House legacy plan would not bring proper balance to this scandal. It did not, for example, have a process for examining Irish extradition policy, which was so friendly to terrorists. Yet London lets Dublin to scold the UK on legacy.

The way out of this should have been the unilateral UK launch of multiple inquiries into terrorism and its facilitators. Instead, London has let the anti state legacy imbalance spook it into an amnesty.

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