Legacy Scandal: ‘We can be hounded because we held records and terrorists didn’t,’ says ex guardsman

A march by 700 veterans to the Guildhall a decade ago, in September 2008, to commemorate servicemen and women who served in Northern Ireland during military campaign, Operation Banner. Photo: Johnny Green/PA Wire
A march by 700 veterans to the Guildhall a decade ago, in September 2008, to commemorate servicemen and women who served in Northern Ireland during military campaign, Operation Banner. Photo: Johnny Green/PA Wire

In the latest essay in our series, ALAN BARRY says that the constant repetition of police misconduct in the HIU part of the draft legacy bill appears to create a false impression that such misconduct was widespread — the same false impression has been given of military misconduct (link to the rest of the series underneath the article):

At Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans (JFNIV), we believe that the current arrangements for dealing with legacy matters are severely flawed.

News Letter series for the late summer and autumn of 2018 on how after decades of murder and mayhem in which the IRA was most culpable, the legacy processes have turned against state forces to a grossly disproportionate extent

News Letter series for the late summer and autumn of 2018 on how after decades of murder and mayhem in which the IRA was most culpable, the legacy processes have turned against state forces to a grossly disproportionate extent

We argue that the proposed changes would make matters significantly worse rather than better.

Below are some of the concerns we have about the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).

You will see that our concerns do not just relate to military veterans, who have obviously been so badly treated, but also the RUC and UDR and other branches of the state.

The fact that HIU has been set up in this way with such sweeping powers is, we fear, revealing of how it has been set up to be acceptable to republicans.

Alan Barry, an ex Grenadier Guard, who was born in Dublin and helped found Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans, which seeks to get justice for Army veterans of the Troubles

Alan Barry, an ex Grenadier Guard, who was born in Dublin and helped found Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans, which seeks to get justice for Army veterans of the Troubles

JFNIV understands that the government has specific responsibilities under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights (which protects the right to life), in relation to deaths within the jurisdiction, but believes that these responsibilities can be better discharged by methods other than those proposed in the draft bill.

The proposals in relation to “non-criminal police misconduct” are unfair, unlawful and unworkable and the repetition of the phrase throughout the draft bill is highly offensive.

This heavy-handed approach lacks proportionality when considered alongside murder and must seem astonishing to those who were the victims of non-fatal but nonetheless serious terrorist outrages.

The Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) proposals exhibit a total lack of balance, concentrating on alleged misdeeds by servants of the state who can be identified and traced and who kept thorough records.

Alan Barry in his younger days as a Grenadier Guard

Alan Barry in his younger days as a Grenadier Guard

The proposed arrangements would involve the UK in clear breaches of Articles 6, 7, 8, 13 and 14, ECHR, and have the potential for breaches of Article 2.

The draft bill manifestly fails to uphold at least half of the basic principles which it sets for itself (fairness, rule of law and human rights compliance); and without radical alteration it risks creating another fiasco.

JFNIV response will take identified flaws as presented in the draft document and outline our opposition to these flaws.

The proposed legislation creates in the HIU a parallel police force in Northern Ireland which would not be acceptable in any other region of this our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Powers 1 (1) The HIU may do anything that it thinks necessary or expedient in connection with the exercise of its functions.

This article gives the HIU unlimited and absolute power that no other police force in the world or state organ possess. Anything means anything. The HIU can say and do anything it wishes with no legislation in place to challenge any of its actions.

There is no caveat that states the HIU must adhere to other legislation contained within the draft bill. The director can with this power over rule any and all other parts of this legislation using Powers 1 (1) should the director choose.

National Security issues.

It is clear through the funding of the HIU that it is a devolved institution. The NIO confirmed this at a recent meeting with JFNIV on August 21, 2018.

This fact should exclude the HIU from having any remit in matters of national security. Nearly all terrorist actions were a matter of national security and involved specialist agencies dedicated to combating the terrorist organisations and operations.

The proposed powers of the HIU will step outside the normal oversight of national security affairs and allow local justices to overrule and release into the public domain matters of sensitive and secret intelligence.

Any institutions dealing with matters of national security should be subject to the exact same high standard of oversight as other institutions in the United Kingdom.

The HIU reports to a devolved policing board which contains the political representatives of those who sought to murder members of the security forces and other public servants, including members of the judiciary, prison officers and civil servants, it cannot be entrusted with any investigations which touch on matters of national security.

The unfair and repugnant issue by HM Government of ‘Letters of Comfort’ also known as ‘On the Run letters’ to wanted terrorists who are believed to have committed some of the gravest murders and human rights abuses in Northern Ireland will fall outside the scope of the HIU.

This means that some 200-300 republican terrorists who will have committed a large part of the deaths that are within the HIU investigative remit will not face prosecution or investigation. However, deaths attributed to the security forces will continue to be investigated and perused rigorously.

This proposed legislation fails to investigate the thousands of bombs that were detonated by republican terrorists in Northern Ireland and the wider United Kingdom and Europe.

It also fails to investigate those terrorists that systematically and intentionally targeted and destroyed whole communities, towns and villages.

It fails to address or investigate the thousands of innocent victims and survivors who have suffered severe injuries both physically and mentally at the hands of terrorists.

The proposed legislation does not differentiate between a true victim and survivor and those who are victim makers. This cannot stand and is not acceptable.

The concept of “non-criminal police misconduct” requires careful examination. The phrase appears regularly throughout the draft bill and its constant repetition is extremely offensive.

Simple repetition seems to be intended to lend the concept a seriousness which it does not deserve.

It appears to be there in order to create the false impression that such “misconduct” was a common event and a matter of widespread concern.

This is no surprise to us because the same false impression has been given of widespread military misconduct.

And all of us in the security forces are more vulnerable to this narrative because we are the easy target because we hold records, and can be chased and hounded as is happening in a number of high profile investigations, while terrorists disappear into the shadows, as they operated in the shadows back then.

• This article is based on part of the submission to the legacy consultation by Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans. Alan Barry served in Operation Banner in the 1980s with the Grenadier Guards. He is co-founder and spokesman of JFNIV

For links to all our previous legacy essays click here