Editorial: There should be a formal review into the breakdown of legacy prosecutions in Northern Ireland

News Letter editorial on Friday February 9 2024:
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The scandal of the way the legacy of the past is handled was again evident yesterday.​

Yet another soldier was charged with murder. Three were charged with attempted murder. We do not comment on the details of those cases, all relating to 1972 shootings, which are now before the courts. Instead, we comment again on the shameful way in which the wider issue of legacy has been allowed to pan out.

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The tensions that arose in the 1960s had many causes, but the violence that erupted began to escalate when Irish republican terrorists made a calculated decision to up the ante. That culpability remained all the way through the violence, at the end of which republicans had carried out 60% of killings, loyalists 30% and state forces 10%.

Barely any other nation on earth would have reacted with such restraint to a terror onslaught, yet we barely hear about the context of state killings. We barely hear about how the calculated IRA ‘honeytrap’ murder of three Scottish soldiers in March 1971 was a turning point, finally shattering trust and relations between the military and nationalists. Prior to that 59 lives had been lost, within 18 months the tally was 500+.

IRA leaders were allowed to come of their mass murder at a time of their choosing after 30 years of terror, and have enjoyed a de facto amnesty ever since.

This newspaper has been almost alone in the media in explaining why it is wrong to say that there is no imbalance in historic prosecutions. We have analysed the statistics to show there is.

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The government has responded to this by trying to shut down all prosecutions. It is an imperfect solution, albeit better than allowing this imbalance to go on. But with Ireland suing the UK on legacy much more is needed. The government should start with a formal review of historic prosecutions over the last decade to identify the imbalance, and the reasons for it.

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