It will be an outrage if inquests into Loughgall thugs get any priority

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Let us all be very clear about the nature of the Loughgall IRA gang that was stopped – thank goodness – in 1987 by the SAS.

It was a known, brutal terrorist faction that set out to murder police in a vulnerable RUC station.

These terrorists were part of a culture of republican sectarian violence, identifying and trying to kill pro British individuals on or near the border, Some of the gang killed many people.

Nothing more vividly portrays the shamefully one-sided nature of the legacy process than the fact that the justified killing of these IRA thugs on the verge of murder was earmarked for taxpayer-funded scrutiny in legacy inquests.

A host of prominent individuals or organisations have insisted that these inquests must be held into victims of state violence. In the last week alone, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, the Human Rights Commission and the Dublin government have added their own voices to this demand.

There is a legal obligation to hold the hearings under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights, but that does not mean that they should be prioritised with special funding.

It is increasingly clear that the legacy inquests must not proceed in the way that republicans and their apologists – be they conscious apologists or merely naive – are demanding.

The other mooted branches of the legacy process, such as the Historical Investigations Unit, will not provide balance to this process. The HIU could well end up primarily investigating state failures, despite the fact that republicans were by a distance the most prolific killers.

This is a scandal of monumental proportions. A state that prevented civil war is carefully picked apart for occasional failures in its generally heroic and restrained operations against the murderous Provisional IRA.

We must urgently establish if legal aid is paying for the judicial review of the entirely appropriate decision not to fund the Loughgall inquests, and if so why it is seen as meritorious.

Meanwhile, unionist MPs should be touring English constituencies, informing them of what is happening in Northern Ireland, and this craven appeasement of the IRA at the expense – literally and metaphorically – of the state.