Letter on legacy is welcome but much more change is needed

Morning View
Morning View

For two months the News Letter has been running a series of Essays called Stop The Legacy Scandal.

The premise of the series is that the way the legacy of the Troubles has turned against security forces who prevented civil war has been a huge scandal.

Many influential people who are outraged at how terrorists have been allowed to distort the past are nonetheless cautious about speaking out in a small society such as Northern Ireland. Even so, we have been pleased to get contributions from victims, academics, lawyers, churchmen, politicians, commentators and former members of the security forces, including two generals and two assistant chief constables.

Gradually, the inversion of right and wrong is such that people across the UK are saying they have had enough. Elderly soldiers now face serious trials, yet no IRA leaders, who were behind untold bloodshed yet were allowed to end their murdering at a time of their own choosing, face the same.

What is the reason for this? The answers are many and complex, but however it explicable it might be it does not diminish the scale of the scandal.

It has been clear for years that a radical approach is necessary. Yesterday 150 influential figures, mostly Tory MPs and peers but also others such as the former Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan and the ex army head Lord Dannatt, said as much in a letter, that “a new approach is desperately needed”.

They said: “We have often heard the promise that the reinvestigation process will be fair, impartial, balanced and proportionate. We fully understand that no one should be above the law, but investigating only certain aspects of the past, whilst terrorists are treated differently by the judiciary means such a careful balance can never be so.”

This is true but this is a wider issue than prosecutions and the definition of a victim. The notion that legacy inquests must be £1m mini inquiries has not been challenged. Legally aided republican civil actions are advancing yet the government is not funding cases against murderers. All this must change.