A conditional amnesty for former combatants who engage with victims might help reconciliation

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

The proposal by members of the House of Lords to end all investigations into unsolved killings during the Troubles is predictable (‘Former NI secretaries denounce legacy plans,’ Oct 10).

The Defence Committee of the House of Commons has been trying to find a way of ending prosecutions of British military personnel for some time and this latest move was flagged by the recent debate in the House of Lords as well as the Legacy Scandal series in the News Letter.

It will certainly solve one problem stemming from the poisonous legacy of the Troubles, but it leaves a lot more unanswered. Not least, those of victims of the Troubles in the Republic and in Britain, as well as failing to address the causes of the unresolved divisions within communities across Northern Ireland.

A conditional amnesty based on former combatants being willing to provide full disclosure on events they were involved in, and engage with victims (where victims wish to engage), would have the potential to reconcile individuals, groups and communities to their various pasts rather than simply burying it and hoping it goes away.

The key is using a mediation process rather than the criminal justice system, which is not designed to deal with the legacy of large scale conflicts, and has clearly shown it is incapable of doing so.

It would also obviate the need to renegotiate the Good Friday and Stormont House agreements that a blanket amnesty would require.

Padraig Yeates, Dublin