The legacy focus on the security forces who averted civil war is a scandal which keeps getting worse

News Letter editorial of Tuesday April 27 2021:

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 7:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 9:25 am
News Letter editorial

The murder trial began in Belfast yesterday of two soldiers over the killing of an IRA terrorist.

The pair of ex paratroopers deny the murder of the Official IRA man, Joe McCann, in 1972.

The principled Tory MP Johnny Mercer, who was sacked just before he quit as a minister due to his support for veterans of Northern Ireland, and the respected former Ulster Unionist MP and now Veterans’ Commissioner Danny Kinahan were at court in Belfast yesterday to offer moral support to those who served in uniform during the Troubles.

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Nothing in this editorial seeks to comment on the details of the current trial, or interfere in the course of the case, which is before a judge. But we can and will comment on the wider outrage of legacy, as we have been doing for many years.

The scandal keeps worsening. Alleged failures of the UK state in its response to the long years of terror, a state which prevented civil war in Northern Ireland, are being picked apart at vast expense — ultimately hundreds of millions.

In addition to the £200 million spent on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, there has been the massive Ballymurphy inquest, the millions spent investigating one Troubles murder, that of the lawyer Pat Finucane, the hundreds of claims against the RUC awaiting scrutiny by the Police Ombudsman, the legal aid-funded civil cases against the security forces, and various major investigations into police handling of matters such as the Hooded Men and the Glennanne Gang terrorists.

Above all there are scores of legacy inquests, which mostly involve claims of state wrongdoing. The only balance to all this is a mooted Historical Investigations Unit which is hoped to examine the mountain of unsolved terrorist murder, but on inspection of the detailed plans there are fears it too will turn against the state, particularly RUC. In any event, state forces are more vulnerable to trial because they have records. Meanwhile, no IRA leaders face trial for decades of mayhem.

There is talk of London outlining a legacy plan soon. If so, it must include a clear route to a process in which murderers get the proportionate scrutiny, including exhaustive investigation of the way the IRA used the Irish Republic as a base.

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Alistair Bushe