Legacy injustice will not escape scrutiny just so that a quick deal can be done

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The protest in Belfast this weekend in support of veterans of the Troubles was a welcome event, in light of the prosecution of elderly veterans of the Troubles.

Almost no-one is suggesting that no soldier should ever have been prosecuted as a result of wrongdoing during their service in Northern Ireland.

Of course it is right to pursue offences.

The problem is both the context of the current prosecutions and the context of their service.

The context of the current prosecutions is an unbalanced legacy focus on state failures in recent years, so that a disproportionate number of probes have been into ex security forces (we recapped on the percentages in this column last week).

This then leads to the wholly unacceptable situation that ex soldiers face prosecution but none of the men who orchestrated terrorism seem to do so.

When will this change, and indeed how can it change? The proposed Historical Investigations Unit will not look at overall offences and so it is hard to see it producing such wider scrutiny. This then could lead to the huge injustice that individual ex soldiers face prosecution but IRA leaders do not. If so, the government will be damned by history for its inaction.

The context of the time meant that soldiers were badly trained and are now facing investigation for split second killings which, even if wrong in hindsight, are not comparable to pre meditated murders.

London is now talking in unison with Dublin about wrapping legacy into the coming talks. But this means it must be agreed by republicans.

Is the UK now going to take a clear stance, the way that Ireland has done with particular Troubles killings (that are uncomfortable for the UK), when Dublin raised these cases in Europe?

This issue is not going to go away or pass without scrutiny just because the government wants a sudden deal here, so that it can focus on Brexit.