Giving thanks to our soldiers, who helped prevent civil war

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Fifty years ago soldiers arrived in Northern Ireland.

It is, by some assessments, the point at which the Troubles began.

The troops were initially welcomed across the community. Why that changed, and why much of the nationalist community turned against the military, is a source of bitter disagreement.

But the majority view of the population of the Province that lived through the violence, including the overwhelming view of supporters of centrist parties such as Alliance during that time, is that the army (and RUC) helped prevent civil war.

Not long ago this was an uncontested view in Great Britain, believed by the great bulk of Labour MPs, even when that party advocated Irish unity by consent. It is a view so obvious that it ought not to even need to be expressed on this anniversary of Operation Banner, which should be a celebration of the army’s role and commemoration of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Sadly, it needs be said with increasing urgency.

The way in which the legacy processes have turned against state forces, who stopped terrorist mayhem, is one of the great scandals of modern politics. It was the subject of our major series of essays, called Stop The Legacy Scandal, with contributions from victims of terror, ex security forces, lawyers, academics, commentators and even former terrorists.

It is said by some people that the mooted Stormont House legacy structures will rectify the imbalance against our former soldiers and police, who have records when terrorists did not, but the legacy scandal series highlighted respected voices who think it will actually make it worse.

One thing is clear. The PSNI might now be stopping bands for wearing Parachute regiment regalia, but public anger on this issue is only in its infancy, if ex security forces face trials or (more likely) endless sub criminal findings that trash their reputation while IRA leaders evade justice and truth in coming years as easily as they did during the violence they perpetuated – and that the police and army so patiently suppressed.