Direct rule would be preferable to a rushed deal based on SHA

Morning View
Morning View

It is a relief to hear that James Brokenshire is saying that he will not release money for legacy inquests until there is political agreement on all of the outstanding legacy issues.

The Secretary of State could easily have been panicked as a result of the Stormont elections into some sort of statement of support for these inquests, which will examine deaths at the hands of state forces during the Troubles.

It is becoming increasingly clear that it was a major mistake for unionists to agree to these inquests as a separate process to the other legacy bodies that were agreed at the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) in 2014.

There has been huge pressure on the government to agree to the inquests, which we have been told must be held under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the government’s failure to protect life.

But the legacy inquests will be seized upon by Sinn Fein and their many apologists to justify decades of terrorism.

It is becoming alarmingly clear that the other parts of the legacy process might not give that terror the scrutiny it must have. The Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) might itself end up focusing on state forces.

London has said it is working on ensuring that this is not the case, but there is a real danger that it will instead rush through provisions to stop elderly soldiers going to jail and then lose any will to balance the rest of the process, which could continue to issue relentless findings against the police and army and occasional ones against the IRA. This is a massive brewing scandal.

It was good to hear Mr Brokenshire convey his belief in the rule of law. The rule of law has been compromised several times since 1998 specifically to keep the republican movement in politics and to stop them going back to bombing.

The true story of the Troubles is how Britain overwhelmingly adhered to the rule of law during the long years of IRA terror.

It will be extraordinary in the coming weeks if unionists agree to SHA as it was originally agreed. Direct rule must come before any such outcome.