NI veterans are right to be wary of an amnesty

Morning View
Morning View

There was a recent news report of a disagreement in Cabinet between the Northern Ireland and Defence secretaries of a possible amnesty for former members over the security forces.

James Brokenshire, the secretary of state, was said to be opposed to one because of how it would impact on negotiations in Northern Ireland. Sir Michael Fallon, at defence, was said to be in favour.

The report may or may not be true, but the very fact that it sounds plausible is rooted in the long-standing sense of meekness towards republicans conveyed by officials in London who have responsibility for Northern Ireland.

Mr Brokenshire, it should be said, did in January write about the legacy imbalance, for which he was bitterly criticised. Mr Brokenshire was correct, and indeed he under-stated the imbalance, but has said little on the matter since January, perhaps due to the backlash.

It has been clear in recent months that he is keen for a deal.

The troubling thing about all this is that the current government is a Conservative one, dependent on unionist votes. What might happen to Northern Ireland in the event of a Labour government (led by those IRA apologists Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell) dependent on Liberal Democrat votes?

Amid all this, veterans of Northern Ireland will hold a rally in Belfast about the criminal justice treatment of veterans.

The NI Crown Forces Veterans for Justice group oppose a statute of limitations, because they feel it would put them on a par with terrorists and so legitimise the latter.

It is admirable to hear this organisation think strategically, rather than instinctively. This is the correct way to proceed.

Before any radical steps such as a de facto amnesty, the government should establish how much is being spent on civil actions against the state. It should also make clear that there will be no extra funding for legacy inquests until it is clear that other mooted legacy bodies will get comparable pro rata funds to examine all unsolved Troubles deaths.