After a long, uncertain period, welcome DUP clarity on RUC legacy

The DUP yesterday gave its clearest indication to date that it will not accept the police misconduct element to a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).

Friday, 29th November 2019, 12:11 pm
Updated Friday, 29th November 2019, 12:21 pm
News Letter editorial

The HIU was to be a key element in legacy bodies envisaged by the Stormont House Agreement.

This newspaper’s Legacy Scandal series of essays (see link below) was the first major forum that questioned the consensus that the proposals for dealing were appropriate (the Ulster Unionist politician and human rights activist Jeff Dudgeon had previously gathered a number of voices who were critical of the plans).

Those doubts have only grown with time. The detail of the legacy bill was a wholly unacceptable manifestation of the over arching Stormont House principles. There are grave questions about the political culture in Northern Ireland that such detail saw the light of day. But it did and yet outside of this newspaper there has been little scrutiny of the plan.

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Police misconduct probes should never have been accepted, but were on the basis that they would take on hundreds of cases from the Police Ombudsman. How did hundreds of cases end up in that office, given the exemplary RUC record?

Yet still little was said about it, with all the focus on veterans. The army, which performed a heroic role here, did nonetheless have far more to answer for in terms of killings than the RUC, yet it was the RUC that was almost destroyed.

While the DUP did express concern about the misconduct element in its submission to the legacy consultation, it had generally been silent on the matter in ways that suggested it might acquiesce in it. Its manifesto, launched yesterday, mentions veterans far more than police. Happily, the party seems now to have put to bed the notion the ex RUC will be betrayed.

The NI Conservatives’ manifesto, which will have been approved in Downing Street, this week specifically mentioned the huge “debt of gratitude” to the RUC.

There is much more to do to rectify the gross imbalance on legacy, including the millions spent on inquests implicating state forces. But yesterday was progress in that direction.