What a shameful situation that Northern Ireland finds itself in at the beginning of 2017.
Three elderly soldiers facing murder trials, for split second decisions that they made decades ago, having been thrown into a chaotic situation for which they were badly trained.
Not a single IRA godfather, or seemingly even a (non dissident) rank-and-file member of the Provisional IRA, which brought Northern Ireland to its knees, facing the same – a terror group that killed on a grand scale in the Province, and then realised that it was more productive to murder in England, target politicians there or bomb economic targets.
Now no-one is set to be prosecuted for the Kingsmill massacre, one in the long list of IRA crimes against humanity in which civilians were slaughtered on a large scale. While there is a clear imbalance in legacy progress, some critics are perhaps too fast to allege bias by organisations.
The reasons for the imbalance are complex, and cross multiple organisations, but there is a simple explanation: it was hard enough for a state that adhered carefully to the rule of law to capture fanatical IRA terrorists and prosecute them to the criminal standard at the turbulent time. It is even harder decades later.
Some possibilities are becoming clearer. The Stormont House Agreement structures might not bring balance to this process. Legacy inquests, which could lead to many more files on security forces being sent to prosecutors, should not proceed unless it is clear HIU will lead to large-scale terrorist trials.
Why, indeed, were the inquests even agreed in outline? The Article 2 ECHR justification for them needs more testing.
Meanwhile, the private action against the IRA killers of the three Scots soldiers cruelly lured to their murder needs widespread support. It is heartening that it so quickly reached its initial fundraising target (but further donations are needed – see page 8 of print edition or click here).
It is welcome that Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has finally distanced herself from John Mason MSP’s disgraceful comments on those dastardly murders.