The march by military veterans in Londonderry against what they describe as ‘vindictive’ criminal investigations is a welcome development.
Such demonstrations should be held in many locations across the UK, and deserve widespread support from anyone who wants to register peaceful protest against the outrageous prosecution of elderly soldiers.
Among majority nationalist towns in Northern Ireland, Londonderry has built up an admirable reputation for toleration of loyal order parades, and it is fitting that the Province’s second city is set to facilitate such a dignified protest.
There is understandable uproar in Great Britain at the news that three elderly Northern Ireland veterans face murder trials, when so many IRA terrorists have escaped justice. But it is alarming to think that there might not be any such uproar if the prosecutions had been of ex RUC men.
After so much forgiveness and tolerance and generosity has been shown by the wider community in the aftermath of the decades of republican led terrorism, and after the restraint of a state that upheld the rule of law and allowed terrorists to remain at liberty because their guilt could not be proven to the criminal standard, elderly soldiers are to be tried for split second decisions made almost 50 years ago.
This changes everything about the political and so-called peace process in Northern Ireland. If there is any fairness in the criminal justice system there should be large scale and pro rata prosecutions of terrorists.
It is time now to also think about multiple private civil actions against the perpetrators of IRA atrocities who escaped justice in the criminal courts. That is why it is encouraging that the private case against the 1971 murderers of the Scottish soldier trio quickly reached an initial target for public donations and why we will keep promoting that action on these pages.
It would be good also to see peaceful protests such as the one in Londonderry so that every part of the UK is made aware of what is happening in Northern Ireland regarding the past.