Doug Beattie: In its desperation to deliver a Stormont ‘quick win’, UK government might cave in to republican demands on legacy

Police and soldiers will be ensnared in the legacy process, in which state records are pored over
Police and soldiers will be ensnared in the legacy process, in which state records are pored over

This is a government that it is in utter turmoil due to its disastrous handling of the Brexit process.

I have very real concerns that in its desperation to deliver some kind of good news story, the government may be prepared to cave in to the demands of republicans on legacy issues by implementing measures already agreed by the DUP and Sinn Fein in the Stormont House Agreement, even though the public consultation on legacy — which attracted over 17,000 responses — has highlighted major opposition to many aspects of the proposals.

I am particularly concerned that the pressure will be on to agree to the introduction of the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), which will be unbalanced in its focus, caseload and outcomes and which is incapable of holding those who terrorised Northern Ireland to account.

The unfairness is evident to all but the most myopic republican apologist, in the shape of a process which will pore over state records to ensnare soldiers and police officers, yet is obviously and inevitably incapable of devoting similar care and attention to the non-existent equivalent historical records of terror gangs.

Furthermore, the HIU will only investigate some — not all — Troubles related deaths. Strangely enough it will seek to investigate every death caused by the security forces, but will not investigate every death of a member of the security forces.

Bearing in mind that the security forces were responsible for 10% of Troubles related deaths, and terrorists for 90%, the imbalance is clear. It should also be noted that the HIU will not investigate any non-fatal incidents.

That means that the 40,000 people injured during the Troubles — the vast majority the result of terrorist actions — are being forgotten about, ignored and denied the prospect of even a modicum of justice, simply because they did not die as a result of their injuries.

And that is before we even look at the new proposed charge of ‘non-criminal police misconduct’ which will be used to target former RUC officers, even dead ones.

The Ulster Unionist Party is extremely concerned, that in its desperation to deliver some kind of much needed ‘quick win’, this government will cave in to republican demands on legacy and press for the introduction of an HIU that will focus on the actions of the police and the army.

We will not stand by and allow this to happen.

Doug Beattie MC MLA, Stormont