Doug Beattie: We will not support the betrayal of victims on legacy to placate Sinn Fein
Recent weeks have demonstrated very clearly how the legacy of the past still has the ability to influence the politics and news agenda of the present day.
The Secretary of State’s clumsy remarks in the House of Commons and the decision to prosecute a single soldier over Bloody Sunday dominated the headlines.
It is important to be clear that law and should be applied equally to everyone - be they soldier, policeman, terrorist, member of the public or politician. But experience has shown that the law has not been applied equally, as hundreds of terror suspects have been granted early release, hundreds more received OTR letters and others have also been able to avail of Royal Pardons.
I am genuinely concerned that the Secretary of State will come under pressure to try to force through aspects of the Northern Ireland Office’s (NIO) legacy consultation, particularly the introduction of the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), part of the legacy mechanisms agreed by Sinn Fein and the DUP at Stormont House.
Last year the Government ran a public consultation on legacy arrangements, and received just under 18,000 responses from victims’ groups, interested organisations, concerned individuals, stakeholders and political parties. Informed sources indicate that very many responses are critical and that the HIU is not acceptable in its present form.
The Ulster Unionist Party has highlighted the main areas of contention on numerous occasions.
They include the need for those murders that were reviewed by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to be included in the HIU work load and the complete injustice of HIU only focusing on fatalities and ignoring the thousands of terrorist attacks that left so many in our society injured during the Troubles.
We are also concerned at the inevitable unfairness that will result from the existence of historical State records relating to Police and Army activity and the complete absence of any equivalent records for the terror gangs who caused 90 per cent of Troubles related deaths.
The bottom line is, the HIU is not fit for purpose; the NIO know this. That will not stop Sinn Fein trying to force it through and using the HIU as a further precondition to entering talks.
Legacy needs to be addressed, and justice must be done for the dead, the injured and their families. We must not lose sight of the fact that the HIU is a flawed proposal that originated as part of the Stormont House Agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
It was not agreed by all parties and the Ulster Unionist Party has been clear that we cannot support this betrayal of victims.
• Doug Beattie MC MLA is UUP justice spokesperson