Two respected figures in British society articulated concern about Troubles legacy yesterday.
The former Presbyterian moderator Rev Dr John Dunlop expressed fear about the “pursuit of the unobtainable” in the Province, and the fact that the state is vulnerable given its past records, in a way paramilitaries are not. He said that “individual members of the security forces will be pursued over allegations of wrongdoing, but those responsible for terrorist atrocities will not”.
Meanwhile, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, who steps down as chief of the defence staff next week, said: “My position as chief of the defence staff is very clear. We in the Ministry of Defence will continue to support the veterans with legal and other support ... If you ask me as Stuart Peach as I depart as chief of the defence staff, I am deeply uncomfortable about some of this as to the way in which it could be interpreted.”
It is good to hear Sir Stuart say veterans will get support. George Hamilton, PSNI chief constable, should also make a commitment of legal and other support for ex RUC officers.
Rev Dunlop and Sir Stuart are right to be concerned. After the latter spoke, Theresa May’s spokesman said: “The prime minister has been clear that the current system in Northern Ireland is flawed and isn’t working. It needs to change to ensure that our armed forces are not unfairly treated.”
But Mrs May seemed to fall silent after politicians and parts of the media criticised her for referring to a legacy imbalance.
The imbalance is stark. Not only are 30% of PSNI legacy investigation cases state killings (which made up 10% of the Troubles dead, mostly legitimate), inquests are mostly victims of the state, the Ombudsman only has remit to probe past claims against the RUC, taxpayers have spent £200 million on Bloody Sunday, and legal aid funds anti state civil cases.
It is not good enough to be told: “legacy is out to consultation”. People need guidance. A Tory government, sustained by the DUP, must explain how security forces will not be more vulnerable than terrorists to the Historical Investigations Unit.