The fate of Dennis Hutchings reflects the scandal of legacy — he died aged 80, on trial, far from home, yet IRA leaders have escaped justice

For more than five years, the News Letter has — almost alone — been reporting those who think legacy is being handled in a disgraceful way.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 9:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 5:05 pm
News Letter editorial

While much of the media has amplified criticism of UK legacy decisions, such as the 2020 decision not to grant yet millions more into examining one murder among thousands, of Pat Finucane, we have given space to the view that the approach to the past lacks balance.

While criticism of London on legacy from across the political spectrum in the Irish Republic – the society that in effect harboured murderers by refusing to extradite them, even after the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement – has been heavily reported, we gave a platform to those voices who repeatedly urged politicians to ensure that there was no legacy deal that did not include detailed scrutiny of that Irish extradition policy.

We have reported the scandal of a hunt for ‘collusion’ that has plainly been exaggerated, given the way loyalist intelligence in the Troubles was obviously bad, brutally killing Catholics but rarely killing republicans (known to the state).

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The scandal of ex RUC being hounded in endless investigations for allegations that never stand up in a criminal court.

The scandal of victim makers being designated as victims.

The scandal of the massive imbalance in historic probes, including multi million pound inquiries into Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy while multiple IRA massacres get none.

The scandal of notorious IRA murders such as that of the lawyer, academic and politician Edgar Graham not even being re-opened under the former Historical Enquiries Team.

The scandal of a third of PSNI legacy probes being into state killings, which were 10% of the Troubles dead, mostly legal (so that illegal state killings are a tiny fraction of the total).

Above all the scandal of ex soldiers facing trial for single shootings that lacked pre-meditation while IRA Army Council leaders escape justice for decades of calculated murder.

Now Dennis Hutchings, having been dragged to a Belfast court, age 80, has died far from his home. This grisly saga is a time to remember two tragedies: the appalling 1974 death of John Pat Cunningham and the appalling end to Mr Hutchings’ life in Ulster amid a seriously imbalanced legacy system.

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