Fresh criticism of London’s plan for a Northern Ireland Troubles amnesty, yet little mention of the context behind that decision

News Letter editorial of Thursday October 7 2021:

By Editorial
Thursday, 7th October 2021, 3:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th October 2021, 3:33 pm
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Once again Boris Johnson’s plans for tackling legacy — in effect an amnesty —are under fire.

The prime minister has been assailed from across the political spectrum for proposing to end prosecutions for Troubles-related offences.

The prospect of an amnesty for terrorist murderers, who were responsible for the overwhelming bulk of historic killings, is repugnant.

Critics of the gross imbalance on legacy against state forces who prevented civil war are right to be appalled, but can often get confused on this point. They explain that the security forces were responsible for 10% of Troubles deaths, as if 10% of prosecutions should be of state forces, which would only be appropriate if one accepts a republican narrative on the past — that all state killings were murder.

The great bulk of state killings were legal, albeit tragic. Thus anything even approaching parity of investigations into terrorist and security force killings is a gross imbalance.

This context is crucial to discussing legacy because the imbalance against security forces explains why the government has been panicked into an amnesty.

Such an amnesty is the wrong way to approach the past but it is far better than the (indulged for too long by successive UK governments) legacy lawfare against the UK state.

Yesterday at Stormont, Andrew Sloan, chief executive of the Commission for Victims and Surivors in NI, cited both UN and US criticism of London’s legacy plan.

But such criticism is misguided because it invariably fails to take account of the easier-on-terrorist context in which legacy has been operating.

The Presbyterian Church has also outlined its grave concern at the legacy plan, which it is more than entitled to do. But the churches have said little about the scandal of so much historic pressure being put on state legacy failures while there seems to be minimal scrutiny of terrorist leaders, and their role in decades of orchestrated murder and bombing.

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