Veterans are right to be wary of a statute of limitations

Morning View
Morning View

Some Tory MPs have sought a statute of limitations for security force veterans of Northern Ireland.

Their sense of urgency is entirely understandable, given the far reaching legacy scandal in Northern Ireland in which elderly soldiers face the prospect of murder trials for their actions during the Troubles.

Meanwhile, the prospect of trials of those who led terrorist organisations and who orchestrated decades of murder and carnage and bloodshed is minimal.

There are extensive records against the security forces and few on terrorists, some of whom should be appearing before international war tribunals.

Not only is there a slim chance of prosecution, but Tony Blair granted comfort letters to On The Run paramilitaries.

Terrorists had already benefited from early release schemes, which were not even linked to IRA decommissioning.

Amid these developments, the government would be neglecting its duty to veterans if it was not thinking hard about how to redress the imbalance. But it is interesting that some veterans themselves oppose anything that leads to an overall Troubles amnesty and equates them with terrorists.

Meanwhile, the coming legacy structures will result in state-funded inquests for dozens of terrorists.

This will be on top of all the taxpayer-funded investigations of the state to date, including the grossly expensive Bloody Sunday inquiry, civil actions against the state, and the various investigations of past security force alleged wrongdoing.

The only prospect of balance then will be the proposed Historical Investigations Unit. But the very fact that the government feels compelled to ensure legally that it too does not focus on the state tells you everything you need to know about the risks of relying on that outfit to bring balance.

If there is a statute of limitations and those inquiries still go ahead, it will be the best of all worlds for republicans: safety from prosecution, and reams of findings that assist the narrative that IRA terrorism was necessary.