Processes on the past must not tiptoe round terrorists

If there is a subject matter that increasingly unites unionists of all shades, it is a sense of growing outrage at how the past has been tackled in recent years.
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There has been a disproportionate focus on the failures of a state that, all unionists agree, was extremely measured in its response to republican murder and mayhem.

You would be hard pressed to find many people even on the wider pro-Union spectrum who do not feel that the state was in fact too restrained in response to IRA terror. Despite this restraint, the state is being pursued on several fronts.

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We report today on Gregory Campbell who is complaining to the Police Ombudsman over what he says is the PSNI’s failure to investigate Martin McGuinness.

If it is the case that the PSNI investigation into the Bloody Sunday soldiers is as large as has been reported, then it is essential that every avenue is used to investigate the activities of senior republican terrorists in the Northwest, whose violence contributed to the context of Bloody Sunday.

To the right of this column, the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt expresses justified scorn at the prospect of Mr McGuinness being forthcoming about his past. The Deputy First Minister is, as Mr Nesbitt says, relentless in his demands for state accountability. If there is such accountability, then Mr McGuinness’s past must course come under heavy scrutiny.

Last week we reported Trevor Ringland’s appropriate concern at the determined push for funding to speed up legacy inquests, which will lead to years of findings of state failures.

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Look at the pedigree of those three unionists: one is firmly on the liberal spectrum of unionism, one is in the middle, and one is conservative. But all are agreed, as would be an overwhelming majority of the pro-Union population, that the IRA literally got away with 1,000+ murders due to the restraint of the state, and whatever mechanism on the past is agreed it will not be one that disproportionately focuses on state failings while tiptoeing round the sensitivities of the terrorists.