Jeff Dudgeon: PM was essentially correct about the legacy imbalance, which will get worse under HIU

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday May 9. She was criticised for claiming there was a legacy imbalance, but in fact was essentially correct, says Jeff Dudgeon. Photo: PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London on Wednesday May 9. She was criticised for claiming there was a legacy imbalance, but in fact was essentially correct, says Jeff Dudgeon. Photo: PA Wire

The prime minister is being denounced by Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party for her remarks on legacy processes when she told MPs (May 9) the situation was patently unfair as “the only people being investigated for these issues that happened in the past are those in our Armed Forces or who served in law enforcement in Northern Ireland”.

Of course she was essentially correct given the vast majority of PSNI enquiries, inquests and related judicial reviews are about deaths attributable to the police and army.

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They constituted 10% of the 3,500 and for the most part were legitimate.

Add to that the fact the state kept voluminous records while the paramilitaries’ filing system is inaccessible, being inside their heads.

The BBC especially on its website is constantly challenging “claims that Troubles investigations unduly focus on those committed by the Army”.

The figures quoted are specious in that comparative percentages of deaths attributed to each group are not provided while every security force death has had its investigation reopened.

PSNI case prioritisation is also absent.

This process can only get more imbalanced and inequitable should the new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) ever get up and running.

There will then be a new police force patrolling the past with combined PSNI and Police Ombudsman powers.

The HIU which formed part of the Haass proposals was initially rejected by the DUP. However a year later, without explanation, it came to form part of the Stormont House Agreement – which of course was not agreed by all the parties.

HIU will run for decades, not the promised five years, as Strasbourg and the cry of ‘non-Article 2 compliance’ can always be invoked. Only if London renegotiates the Article 2 aspect can there be any chance of closure.

Let nobody be in any doubt that if inquests are kept out of the proposed Historical Investigations Unit every single one already held can be re-opened.

And this is not just about the 350 deaths attributed to the security forces, but for every loyalist and IRA killing, given that state ‘collusion’ or British agent involvement can be hypothesised.

• Jeffrey Dudgeon is an Ulster Unionist councillor in Belfast and editor of the just published Legacy: What to do about the Past in Northern Ireland?