Doug Beattie: The proposed new legacy system is a bad deal that will not give victims justice and the public must make itself heard

Doug Beattie MC MLA is the Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson
Doug Beattie MC MLA is the Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson

Listening to the Victims Commissioner – Judith Thompson – argue that the legacy consultation has had a poor uptake, I remain disappointed that she has not been more vocal about the place of victims within the consultation.

I have yet to hear her call for a mechanism where all innocent victims are given at least the chance of justice.

To focus purely on what is in the document, while ignoring what is not in it, is in my opinion a mistake.

As it stands now, the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) will only investigate 1,700 fatalities while ignoring tens of thousands of those who were left limbless, blind, burned, scarred both mentally and physically or left to look after a loved one who has suffered a living death since a terrorist bomb tore them apart.

To ignore those victims is a dereliction of duty by the commissioner, the government and the law enforcement agencies.

Even now the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the PSNI cannot set out who — either state or terrorist group — was responsible for the fatalities the HIU intend to investigate.

So as a politician I do not know if the main investigatory mechanism proposed is fair, balanced and proportionate.

Neither do I know how they intend to investigate the case where an individual was kidnapped in Northern Ireland, taken across the border to be murdered as the HIU is geographically fixed to Northern Ireland deaths and the Irish government do not have any reciprocal investigatory mechanisms.

It is time people understood that the HIU will not give victims justice; it will not deal with a sensible definition of a victim, it does not look at pensions for innocent victims and it does not address the vexed question of a Statute of Limitations which will create a virtual amnesty for terrorists.

All this while at the same time it sets up a parallel police force in Northern Ireland with the power of arrest, funded from the public purse with a director having sweeping unaccountable powers to decide what he will investigate, when he will investigate and in what order; while at the same time ignoring tens of thousands of victims including the 47,000 who were injured during the course of the Troubles.

This system is not right.

It is a bad deal adopted between the two largest parties as part of the Stormont House Agreement and if the public do not make their voices heard by both engaging in the consultation and lobbying their political representatives it will become a reality which we will be dealing with for many years to come.

• Doug Beattie MC is Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann and the party’s Justice Spokesperson. The public consultation on the legacy proposals will close on September 10