Letter to veterans of NI gives them fresh ground for concern

Morning View

Army veterans of the Troubles are being urged to ignore a letter inviting them to give evidence at the Ballymurphy inquests.

While it is encouraging that the letter from a London-based legal firm has assured them that “it is not a method of apportioning guilt” the anxiety of the soldiers is understandable.

A number of veterans face serious criminal trials for Troubles killings, and last week a court ruled that a decision by prosecutors not to proceed with a charge against a soldier for a historic shooting was the wrong one.

Meanwhile if the criminal justice system is making progress against the IRA leaders who instigated and presided over decades of terrorism and misery, then there is as yet no sign of it.

Little wonder then that Alan Barry, of Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans (JFNIV), has revealed that his group is urging former soldiers to “put the letters in the bin”.

This batch of letters is a fresh reminder that the UK government needs to think hard about something: both London and the DUP are reported to have been on the verge of agreeing to a package of funding for the legacy inquests into scores of Troubles deaths.

Sinn Fein also claims that the government has agreed not to consult on a statute of limitations for former soldiers (there is an increasingly widely held view that such a statute would lead to a general amnesty).

What ever happened to the concerns of the government, from James Brokenshire to Theresa May, that investigations of the past were imbalanced against the state (an observation that is plainly correct)?

Most of the inquest killings were carried out by the security forces, and a large minority of the dead were terrorists.

Yet there has been no indication yet of how much these inquests will cost, when they will end, and how much of the money earmarked for legacy matters that they will soak up.

No legacy deals should proceed until that matter is clarified.

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