We have every sympathy with George Hamilton in the challenges he and his service faces in terms of adequately policing the present but what we do not and cannot countenance is his entering into matters which are of a ‘political’ nature.
The chief constable’s ill-judged comments for a debate about the past, have hurt very many innocent victims and survivors of terrorism.
The chief constable might say that he ‘only’ called for a debate about the past, but many understood his remarks as part of a wider campaign to bury ‘the past’ forever denying the innocent justice, truth and accountability for the wrongs inflicted upon them.
I fully accept that he was not calling for an amnesty but even in calling for a debate he has entered the political sphere and given credibility to those who want an amnesty (and they are many).
The chief constable’s role requires his police service to investigate crime – what happened over the years of the terror campaign was crime.
Crimes committed over the years of the terror campaign are not historic crimes, for those families and individuals concerned, they are current crimes which have yet to be resolved.
It is an indictment of this society that some have attempted to portray innocent victims and survivors of terrorism as being anti-peace, as troublemakers, nutters or as refusing to forgive and hence preventing themselves and society from moving on.
Last week a trial took place in west Germany where a 94-year-old survivor of the Auschwitz death camp is giving evidence against a 94-year-old member of the Nazi SS Army.
Is the expectation that this man should also just go away, that he should let sleeping dogs lie, that justice, truth and accountability should remain elusive to him in this life?
No, that is not the case and neither should anyone request or expect it to be so within the context of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’.
Drawing a line under the past will not deliver reconciliation within and between our people.
For this to happen, we must work through the processes of justice, truth and accountability to completion and those who committed crime and wrong against their neighbours must show remorse, repent and then commit themselves to engaging in acts of restitution – this is the pathway to reconciliation, any other variation is phoney and destined to fail.
Kenny Donaldson, Innocent Victims United, Lisnaskea, Fermanagh