Careful examination of the SHA legacy structures is needed

Morning View
Morning View

The government is to begin a public consultation on the bodies to deal with legacy of the Troubles.

The Northern Ireland Office points out that this was in the Conservative election manifesto.

James Brokenshire has said the proposals are “sufficiently developed” that the next step is consultation.

This is a crucial part of the process. The public, the media and key groups such as victims will be able to examine the plans.

The Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann is right to express concern, as his party has done increasingly, about the appropriateness of a new layer of structures to deal with legacy.

The Stormont House Agreement (SHA) was agreed in 2014, but much has happened since then with regard to legacy.

Terrorism, which Northern Ireland was forced to tolerate for so long, is something that other countries are now experiencing – and it is clear that those nations will not be as lenient about the terror threat as the UK was in Northern Ireland.

In this new context, it would be foolish to embark on a process that has even a slim prospect of concluding that the state and the terrorists were equally at fault during the Troubles.

The other key change since 2014 is the fact that three elderly soldiers now face trial for Troubles killings, while minimal progress has been made solving outstanding terrorist crime.

More than ever, it is crucial that the SHA structures are thoroughly examined. Unionist politicians will want to listen to victims’ activists such as Kenny Donaldson, who are concerned as to the ability of SHA to get justice against terrorists.

Particular consideration needs to be given to the Historical Investigations Unit and the legacy inquests. The News Letter revealed that at least 35 of the 94 deaths earmarked for inquests were terrorists, an alarming statistic given the huge pressure there has been to fund these investigations.

That must not happen until there are clear pro rata estimates for the amount of money that will be spent investigating each Troubles death under the SHA structures, to ensure that the scandalous situation does not arise in which terrorists get greater scrutiny than terror victims.