Collusion claims try to divert attention from stark Troubles statistics

News Letter editorial for Friday July 23 2021:

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 10:10 am
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 10:16 am
News Letter editorial

The RUC has an exemplary Troubles record.

Smeared by consistent claims of collusion, which aim to divert attention from the fact that by far the worst killers were republican terrorists (2,100 dead out of 3,600), the RUC killed only 55 of those who died, yet saw 302 of its officers murdered.

Collusion claims seek to divert attention from these stark statistics and try to implicate police officers in the 1,100 loyalist murders, when in fact loyalist intelligence was poor. Fewer than 50 of their murder victims were republican terrorists.

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The army, like the police, was central to preventing civil war in the 1970s. Yet soldiers do have more to explain than police in terms of numbers of killings and in terms of misconduct (ie excessive force used in house raids).

This is not to say that it would be sensible to hound the army on complaints half a century old, but to marvel at the fact that it was the police, not the army, who alone faced ‘non criminal misconduct’ probes as part of the wider Stormont House legacy package.

Moving such allegations against the RUC to a Historical Investigations Unit was justified on the basis it would have removed them from the ombudsman. That would be welcome, yet it accepts the unfairness of only the police having to face such historic probes, assessed on the balance of probabilities.

There is reason to be troubled by the process of ombudsman scrutiny, and incidents such as the way Al Hutchinson left office and his report on Loughinisland, which did not find collusion, was overturned. There was also the later saga over Mr Justice McCloskey’s scathing ruling on the substitute Loughinisland report, before he felt pressured to resign, and his ruling was overtaken by a very different one.

It is a pity retired police did not appeal that to the Supreme Court, although the reluctance to do so was understandable. It is not as if PSNI leaders have stood by RUC officers the way General Sir Nick Carter said the military will “look after [veterans] who are being investigated ... to the best of our ability”.

The welcome government retreat from one-sided legacy probes was light on detail on all the cases against an RUC which was so professional in the face of an IRA onslaught.

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