Our thoughts are with soldiers A and C, and their ordeal — being put on trial for killing an IRA multiple murderer

News Letter editorial of Wednesday May 5 2021:

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 7:15 am
News Letter editorial

Our thoughts, like people across the UK, are with soldiers A and C.

Congratulations on your acquittal.

Thank you for your service to your country, coming to Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

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And sorry for the trauma you have been put through late in life, facing trial for killing an IRA multiple murderer, Joe McCann.

What a scandal that you were both put on trial when IRA godfathers such as Martin McGuinness somehow seemed to enjoy immunity from being held to account for decades of pre-meditated and large scale terrorism.

What an outrage that you both were brought over to Belfast to be put in the dock as soon as a practicable when a pandemic waned, after Tony Blair ran a secret scheme to try to ensure that IRA fugitives did not face trial.

And how sickening that your case rested on evidence given voluntarily, and not under caution, to the former Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

Veterans will understandably be wary about co-operating with any proposed legacy bodies.

But advocates on behalf of the security forces should be clear: calls now should not merely be for protection for veterans to prevent this sort of case ever coming before a court again. The calls should also be for the UK government to scrap any idea of reviving the Stormont House legacy plan.

There is speculation that London next week will, in the Queen’s Speech, announce a ‘holistic approach’ to legacy.

Both DUP candidates have time to make clear that if they win, no such scheme will have the support of their party.

Instead, the UK should launch a raft of inquiries into terrorism, to match the legacy inquests, which are mostly into killings in which the security forces are implicated, but which are decided on the balance of probabilities, rather than to the more difficult criminal standard.

If allegations against the state are decided to a lower burden of proof, so too must those against terrorists.

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Alistair Bushe