Rev David Clements: ​Too many families have been failed by previous legacy processes

A letter by Rev David Clements:
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Letters to editor

I welcome your publication of the letter from Trevor Ringland (‘We should all engage with legacy plans’, July 25).

I hope that his comments will be widely read and carefully considered by all who have, and should have, a responsibility for dealing with the legacy of our troubled past.

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What he writes is no surprise to me, we sometimes discuss these difficult things over a cup of coffee.

Dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland's troubled past has always been controversialDealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland's troubled past has always been controversial
Dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland's troubled past has always been controversial

As we have aged, we may look increasingly like Statler and Waldorf (the grumpy old Muppets who sit in the gallery) but I trust that our commentary is constructive rather than cynical!

This paper, more than most, has helpfully contributed to the discussion of this contested subject.

I have little to add to Trevor’s letter, save this one personal note. The families of too many victims have been failed by previous legacy processes.

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My father was murdered by the IRA in the mouth of Christmas in 1985, as he served the whole community in a bottle-green uniform.

No one was charged or convicted for his murder.

Years later, with one of my sisters, I met the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and they promised a report within a few months. Six months later the HET was closed down and the PSNI Legacy Branch ‘took over’.

About eight years later two members of the Legacy Branch came to see me – supposedly to ‘answer my questions’. It was a far from satisfactory process!

My amazing mother died last autumn. Since then, I have sometimes thought I should ‘just close the book’. It was something my mother did years ago.

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However, years of work with victims of the Troubles – many of them remarkably courageous people – make that a choice I’m not ready for yet.

The legislation will be what it will be. Despite some improvements coming from the House of Lords (where some battles are still to be fought) – the legislation will be imperfect.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that the key will be the chairmanship of Sir Declan Morgan of the International Commission for Reconciliation and Information Retrieval (ICRIR).

I met with Sir Declan recently and my confidence levels rose. For what it’s worth, I offered him critical and constructive support.

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If he can gain the confidence of victims’ families, as Jon Boutcher did with Operation Kenova, then there is the prospect of at least some positive outcomes.

As Trevor Ringland says, we must all engage in the process.

Rev David Clements, Cullybackey