Liam Clarke adds to the Slugger case for public disclosure of HET files and backs it up with the powerful example of the battle of St Matthew’s.
The HET has the raw data to answer most of the questions of the troubles; if not to the level of proof required for prosecution, then at least to a level useful in the writing of history. They hold the records of every police investigation, as well as intelligence reports and the findings of bodies like the Stevens and Stalker inquires. Everything is collated on databases and can be cross referenced to find patterns in the killings.
There are two problems with the HET. The first is that it is under resourced with just £32 million to examine 3,269 deaths. The second is that its findings are not made generally available. They are handed to the families of the dead who then decide whether to make some, all or none of the contents public.
This is not a good return for society as a whole. There is a need for more resources to be given to the HET. We need a panel of historians and other experts, including victims representatives, to review the reports and data. Then they can be drawn together into as full an account of our troubles history as is possible within the lifetime of those affected.
While recognising the dangers of one sided justice, politicians like Sammy Wilson would do better to make affordable justice a common cause and drop the mean spirited and carping tone that is so offensive to Catholics ( sic) and therefore counterproductive to unionists. DUP members are playing a bad round of the old zero sum game. Nationalist Derry’s gain is seen as unionism’s loss, added to which is fear of further gains. Justice for unionists will never be won this way.
The most common reaction I have had from ordinary unionists is the disgust at the attention, resources and political support which has been given to the investigation of this one tragic incident, whilst the murders by the IRA of 211 policemen, 18 soldiers at Warrenpoint and hundreds of civilians, are still unresolved and in some cases have received the most cursory investigation. The question asked is what is so special about the cases in Londonderry that £200m can be spent investigating them whilst others are ignored.
But others aren’t “ignored,” Sammy, they’re just not getting the Saville treatment – and you support that, you say. So what exactly is your point? Just under half the backlog has been cleared. We might well ask why there have been only two loyalist prosecutions and no republican. The answers lie in the files.
Why doesn’t this man of government drop the whingeing and adopt the positive solution above, to call for comprehensive HET disclosure? Is there a clue in his use of the word ” attention?” Is he unable to stand it when others get noticed and he has to chip in with something, anything, even to share with us defiantly that he has no intention of reading the report?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London