Nothing less than root and branch reform of legacy is acceptable

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It was encouraging to hear on Monday a leading DUP MP say that the government is set to make “significant changes” to proposals for dealing with the past.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who is his party’s legacy spokesman, said London was going to make the changes in response to concerns that flow from the legacy plan.

This is just what needs to happen. Nothing less than root and branch reform is needed. Indeed, if Downing Street was as concerned about ex security force personnel as Theresa May has insisted she is, then it would have already launched a review of how we ever ended up in this scandalous situation.

There has been a massive investigative focus on state forces that prevented civil war, costing millions of pounds.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry, civil actions (overwhelmingly funded by legal aid and anti state), the Police Ombudsman’s Office (which has hundreds of outstanding cases), the PSNI legacy branch which is 30% looking into state killings, the section 35 (5) prosecutor orders which are almost all into state allegations. One of the only such orders that is not focused on state is the Stakeknife probe, but it is focused on state and terrorist. Any such investigation into intelligence penetration of the IRA should be an attempt to identify the successes of such vital work, and how to improve it in future so that agencies can penetrate and diminish current and future terrorists. It would be unforgivable if the end result of all legacy probes was anything other than a overall celebration of the work the intelligence agencies did in saving life via their brave agents.

There have been minor welcome legacy developments: funding for a Hyde Park civil case, a Birmingham massacre inquest, a new focus on Airey Neave’s murder. But this is only the beginning of what is needed. Under no circumstances should a ‘police misconduct’ body be introduced without a comparable function to examine terror murder and lesser offences by paramilitaries. If the state is judged to a sub criminal standard, where it is easier to find against them, then so must be terrorists – and on a comparable (ie massive) scale.