Event gave platform to key minority voices on legacy

Morning View
Morning View

A seminar on Saturday in Belfast examined the coming legacy legislation that will govern Northern Ireland’s approach to the past.

It was a rare event, because scrutiny of legacy structures has overwhelmingly been from an angle that is positive to the 2014 Stormont House proposals.

A range of pressure groups, human rights lawyers, and politicians have agreed that that is the best way forward.

But some people who work with victims of the IRA, such as Kenny Donaldson and Ken Funston (whose brother was murdered by terrorists near the border), have been deeply concerned about the Stormont House structures.

They fear the proposals will not bring justice to IRA victims, and will concentrate on claims against the security forces. London is alert to these concerns and is trying to ensure the mooted Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) does not end up focusing to a disproportionate extent on state violence.

It is reassuring that the government is sensitive to these fears but disturbing that such an imbalance is impossible. Mr Funston and Mr Donaldson were among the people who contributed to Saturday’s event, as did lawyers who have queried the structures, including Neil Faris and Austen Morgan.

One of the most powerful interventions of the day came from the floor, when Anne Graham, sister of the murdered lawyer Edgar, shot at point blank range on the verge of Queen’s University in 1983, relayed her deep dissatisfaction with the Historical Enquiries Team’s (HET) handling of her brother’s case. The HIU will replace the HET.

The seminar was set up by Jeff Dudgeon, the Ulster Unionist councillor and former member of the party’s team in the Haass talks. He is highly critical of the legacy structures.

These vital voices have not received anything like the coverage they deserve on legacy, as aggressive pro republican factions make the most noise. But London seems determined to implement Stormont House, so critics will have to engage fully with the consultation process.