In the latest essay in our series on the legacy imbalance, the former MP and army officer DANNY KINAHAN says that protecting the Roman Catholic community in was the original reason the UK’s armed forces were deployed in Northern Ireland and violent republicanism turned it into the mess it became (see links beneath the article to the rest of the series):
Supporting our armed forces and security services was one of the four key aims I set myself at Westminster when I was an MP there between 2015 and 2017 (making Stormont work, improving the Union and promoting business in Northern Ireland being the others).
With some 46 ex-service MPs, and with all the key former senior service personnel in the Lords, this task should have been relatively unnecessary.
Yet this could not have been further from the truth with regard to Northern Ireland legacy issues.
Many in authority will not approach the subject, on the dubious grounds that it would interfere in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Most MPs are unaware how one-sided the peace process has become.
The government’s neutrality means the UK continually loses out to the never ending promotion of republican ideology, political parties and supporting media.
The result is the denigration of all actions of the legitimate state forces, whilst at the same time equating the handful of questionable actions with the devastating acts of terrorism of their own.
We must stir everyone up from this torpor and selective blindness.
We need all nationalists and unionists and centre ground members of the public — whether in the UK or Ireland, Europe or the USA, whether pro nationalist, unionist or anywhere else in the centre of the political spectrum — to realise that this politicising and denigration of the actions of our security services is completely wrong, and a real danger to future good government and democracy.
States exists to protect their people whatever their creed and beliefs, through the democratic will of their parliaments and through them to its generals.
Protecting the Roman Catholic community in was the original reason the UK’s armed forces were deployed in Northern Ireland, and it was violent republicanism through the most vile acts of indiscriminate violence of maim and murder that turned it into the mess it became.
Over 3,000 killed, 47,000 injured and over 250,000 or more suffering mentally from the troubles.
We must never let this current inertia, blur the agony violent republicanism forced on everyone.
Whether you are unionist or nationalist or neither — left wing, right wing or centre ground — and especially if you want to put the past behind us, to draw a line or find some way of moving on, it is up to all of us to support the state, and to use the democratic institutions to guarantee those very values in which we British and Irish people have pride.
Those values of tolerance, mutual respect, freedom of choice and freedom of speech, and the very liberty to be who each of us want to be, and all guaranteed by our country’s democracies and by security forces.
Our security forces must follow the rule of law wherever they serve.
However this rule must be apply equally through all aspects of society in a fair, balanced, impartial, proportionate and transparent way.
This means all those deaths, maimings and crimes must be dealt with in the same way.
The Belfast Agreement created a basis intended to guarantee a shared approach to governing ourselves through our devolved assembly at Stormont.
It was designed to put the past behind us through working together, yet political side-deals and unequal guarantees highlighted by Royal Pardons and On-The-Run letters for a select few have destroyed this opportunity.
Together with this new collective apathy this vision of a shared future has virtually been destroyed.
Investigating every angle of actions by state forces when 500 terrorists have been let out under license (and when one On-The-Run letter in the case of the Hyde Park bomb has shown that terrorists holding such letters cannot be prosecuted) is not balanced nor is it proportionate.
Allowing new ideas of victimhood, collusion and themes to obfuscate the appalling atrocities that were created, planned and inflicted against civilians and security forces alike, means everyone of us needs to wake up and realise that letting off one side means you need do the same to the other.
Alternatively we must decide to treat everyone equally under the law or draw a line in the past and allow everyone to move on.
Which is it to be amnesty or justice for all, or blunder on in this unjust and unequal way?
If we do not decide and if we allow this to all remain ‘too difficult’, terrorism wins and all that our society stands for is lost.
David Trimble and John Hume and all those behind the Belfast Agreement in Westminster and Dublin and all those who voted for that agreement on both sides of the Irish border will have been betrayed.
Westminster sometimes conveniently forgets that Northern Ireland’s troubles meant that over 300,000 service personnel from all parts of the UK served in Northern Ireland and that the atrocious bombings and shootings happened throughout its shores, and further afield — not solely in Northern Ireland.
This is not just a Northern Ireland matter for the Northern Ireland Office to tackle.
The NIO consultation ‘Dealing with the past’ must be promoted and publicised in the UK.
There are some disgraceful suggestions therein, especially from the Historic Inquiries Unit, which are totally contrary to the essential principals of justice.
No longer will everyone be equal before the law and be innocent until proven guilty.
At home and abroad, there have been absurdly tenuous cases brought against the military by some individuals/organisations who have a vested interest.
Our armed services are the envy of the world — granted as with all major organisations, it may occasionally have a serious miscreant amongst them, but categorically not to the extent that we should treat them all as criminals.
The armed services are there in time of great need.
They went to Afghanistan’s aid against the Taliban or have protected countries from tyrants such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.
Indeed they saved refugee lives in the Mediterranean, helped tackle the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, and domestically dealt with disasters such as Mad Cow Disease or the flooding.
They are most definitely not the evil imperialist forces with no morals or values that hard line republicans would have us believe.
The government must wake up, follow the lead of its few but vocal campaigners to take action and treat our servicemen and security forces as a UK wide matter and deal with legacy properly.
• Danny Kinahan is a former army officer in the Blues and Royals & a former Ulster Unionist MLA and MP