MP is right to defend veterans but matters are even worse than he says

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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In recent years, some political parties have tried to widen their pool of elected representatives by bringing in people who were not previously involved in politics.

Johnny Mercer MP is such a figure, having admitted that the first time he voted was for himself as MP.

Widening the pool of politicians has pros and cons. Lack of prior party loyalty would be seen by many observers as a good quality in a budding politician but if the party system breaks down, government becomes difficult.

Mr Mercer has now in effect quit the Tory whip on one issue, which is an illustration of the vulnerability of parties to this new breed of politician. However, if a politician is to resign on one single issue, they would be hard pressed to find a better one than the disgraceful treatment of Troubles veterans.

In fact, the problem is worse than Mr Mercer says. It is not just a problem facing ex soldiers, it is a far reaching scandal in which the weight of the state has turned against a state that prevented civil war and which saw off the long terrorist campaign. While some people and groups are happy for legacy to turn against the state, it is not an over-arching conspiracy. It is simpler than that — it is a reflection of the fact that state forces are, rightly, open and transparent and therefore their wrongdoing is much more easily identified.

It is also a reflection of the fact republicans have been plotting a legacy strategy for decades that justifies their violence. No-one else is as organised as them on legacy.

Some MPs including Mr Mercer want an amnesty, and there are arguments for and against that option. But the worst thing that could happen is an amnesty for everyone and no criminal cases, while multiple inquiries into state actions continue, that do not have to meet the criminal standard.

The most unacceptable element of all to the proposed investigatory unit is ‘police misconduct’. Thus, while it is an outrage to put soldiers in the dock in the absence of any progress (or even mechanism) for identifying, pursuing and charging IRA leaders, it is the RUC who face perhaps the worst fate of all.