What if tens of thousands of “Troubles” victims were to litigate?

This is an interesting development. One case is neither here nor there. But considering the death count of the Troubles is a fraction of those seriously injured the whole judicial system could face meltdown if others were to follow in any great number…

“More than 300,000 servicemen and women served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles,” he said.
“If every one of those made a complaint to the PSNI about attempted murders, how do you think the PSNI would manage?
“All victims deserve truth and justice, but how do we do that? Where do we draw the line? Stormont and the British Government need to work out how to deal with Northern Ireland’s past.”

Where do we draw the line? Legal activism is growing with victims relatives queuing for years to get justice and truth for their loved ones against a Peace Process which almost guarantees their wishes will be thwarted.

Calls for an amnesty, however well intended, don’t deal with the demand for justice (a right guaranteed under the UN Charter). Political will appears to be the only means of dealing with what look like the unmeetable demands of what could number tens of thousands of the Troubles victims.


  • patrick23

    I got the impression this was done to highlight an issue, rather than being a serious case.
    “Soldier attacked during conflict” would appear to be something of an occupational hazard

  • Luke Moffett

    The UN Charter makes no provision for ‘justice’, the UN Declaration of Human RIghts only provides for remedy. The European Court of Human Rights itself generally states in dealing with the past that amnesties can be used provided they are not for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity, really the court focuses on ensuring effective investigations rather than guarantee outcomes, as even the best prosecutor can never guarantee a conviction.

    There is also the issue of private prosecutions taken by victims where the PPS does not, provided there is evidence.

  • Robin Keogh

    I saw this but i dont see how it can go anywhere. A soldier in a war zone is likly to come up against attack no? Or did his job discription fail to mention that possibility.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for a most clear description of the actual legal situation.

  • mickfealty

    Thanks Luke. You’re right of course, redress is a more fitting and exact instrumental term. But as you also point out, it’s very messy territory.

  • Thomas Barber

    Indeed and what if every civilian injured as a result of the past conflict brought cases before the courts demanding the release of any files connected to their cases in order to acertain whether any state agents were involved in any action or actions that led to their injuries im sure the courts would be inundated and the PSNI overwhelmed.

    “Where do you draw the line”

    You draw the line at brushing under the carpet the immoral and criminal actions by those who’s job description was to uphold law and order and to protect life, those who were paid handsomely whilst supposedly doing that job and paid from the public purse to put themselves on the front line.

    The reality is the PSNI are either oblivious to the extent of collusion or they are reluctant to proactively pursue the so called bad apples else they find there are many within their own ranks.

    If collusion can be ignored and brushed under the carpet and the guilty allowed to evade justice because it suits the times we live in then everyone imprisoned for political offenses during the past conflict should have their records wiped clean.

  • Jollyraj

    Not just the British Gov, surely. Even the, one imagines, enormous wealth Sinn Fein have no doubt gathered from various fund raising efforts would hardly cover the costs of compensating victims of the IRA.

  • Jollyraj

    Same would apply to IRA members?

  • chrisjones2

    “Or the Paratroopers involved in Bloody Sunday FORTY FOUR YEARS later still not charged? ”

    Would you like to have some evidence to the criminal standard first?

    And just the Paras? What about the guy with the machine gun?

  • chrisjones2

    Who is ‘my side’? Is that the best you can offer – like playground politics?

  • chrisjones2

    There is an even simpler and cheaper option

    Every one who was a victim and where noone was convicted should go to the police and make a complaint demanding a re investigation of the crime. If it was a murder or attempted murder they have the right under Article 2 to a fully compliant article 2 investigation. If they haven’t had one they should demand one now and demand that it include the spokesmen of the terrorist organisations involved as swell

  • Jollyraj

    “Never mind the crimes my side committed”

    Where did I say that?

  • chrisjones2

    So are you saying that the murder of soldiers of police officers was justified?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    One of the side effects of a 30 year terror campaign I’m afraid. The IRA’s history of numpty behaviour is hardly our fault …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    ooh this sounds familiar …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    do you have anything to say about the terrorists at all? You know, the ones who did most of the thing we’re talking about?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That soldiers accept risks does not excuse civilians coming up to them and murdering them. Did you think the beheading of Lee Rigby was fair enough? I suppose people have the right to shove firemen off buildings and kick nurses in the face too … who would be a public servant.

    And it wasn’t a war zone, there was no war except in the fetid imaginations of the little Hitlers in balaclavas. If you talk to soldiers, they don’t really regard Northern Ireland as the kind of situation the Army is really there for. They join and train for combat operations, not to get sniped at from a distance by cowards who merge back into the civilian population then cry foul at any attempts to apprehend them.

    I’d love soldiers to sue Sinn Fein but I agree it won’t happen.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Why IRA victims and their families haven’t been able to sue SF as an organisation is beyond me. It has so much money and its victims so little – it’s just so wrong. And before anyone says SF is not the IRA, let’s not go over that one again – they are its political wing and where the Republican Movement’s legal personality (and some of its money) resides.

    Failing that, couldn’t the likes of Kelly, Adams, McGuinness etc, who were directing terrorism, not be sued in their personal capacities? Equally so on the Loyalist side.

  • You might think so.

  • Robin Keogh

    Here now calm down fella. The other day you wiped the floor with someone for assigning comments to you that you had not actually made. Nowhere did i say killing anyone is ‘fair enough’. Apologies welcome.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I didn’t say you had said it, Robin, I asked what your position was on Lee Rigby, given your earlier comment that soldiers have to accept the risk of being attacked on the streets (by people who don’t accept the state and choose to ‘execute’ soldiers as representatives of it, in the case of both IRA attacks and Islamic extremists). I assume from your answer you wouldn’t support the killing of Lee Rigby – and sorry if you took my question as suggesting you did. But in that case, you would need to revise your view about soldiers being attacked on the streets as being part of the job. I know you’d like it not to be their country, reasonable aspiration etc for the future, but factually it was and is. It can’t be right in any sense for soldiers to be attacked on the streets, let alone murdered. If you have sympathy for Lee Rigby, surely you also have sympathy for all the many others murdered in our province?

  • Robin Keogh

    Plenty of sympathy for all of them. But my sympathy is useless in the face of harsh reality.

    We have very different views on the conflict and very different interpretations on the past.

    Everyone killed in the conflict was a tragedy and broke a heart somewhere else.

    Lee Rigby was not in situ on active service against an enemy when he was killed.

  • Robin Keogh

    His post is meant to counteract Mick’s I think, and he is correct in so far as citizens of the state have the right to the protection of the state. The issue then is between the citizen and the state, the actions of others are irrelevent to that situation.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    many of the security force people were not “on active service against an enemy” when killed either. Many were retired; others were just reservists doing their everyday jobs as milkmen or farmers or plumbers or whatever. There were an awful lot shot at home. Then there were the ones attacked off duty in the barracks. Then there were also the many shot when peacefully out on patrol. Very, very few were killed after firing weapons or in actual engagements with the terrorists. I’m left unclear as to when you think a soldier, or indeed anyone, was a “legitimate target” and when not. I’d have said the very concept was wrong. Murder is murder at the end of the day.

    My understanding is that SF regard as worthy of execution anyone who was in the security forces, or had ever been in the security forces, or had ever done a project for the security forces (my friend’s father was in the latter category). Of course there were so many categories of legitimate target they allowed themselves, it amounted to virtually any Protestant not in Field Day. Judges, prison officers, politicians, farmers near the border, the sons of farmers near the border, journalists, people in pubs where a policeman might be, women dating soldiers or policemen, Protestants living in nationalist areas, OO members, civil servants, etc, etc. Then there just the ‘shoot a Prod’ ones.

    Even if someone accepted your argument that soldiers should accept the risks and so have to accept being murdered by terrorists – which I very strongly reject on moral grounds – it would still leave the question of whether they should accept the risk when they are off duty or retired. And of course there are all the other types of people the paramilitaries targeted: did they accept the risk?

    I think rather than pushing blame for murders onto the murdered, it’s better really to look to the murderers. And no that’s not only Republican terrorists, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, in the Troubles it mainly was.

  • Robin Keogh

    We have been around the houses before on this. We have different ideas of what was right and what was wrong. Different notions on what acts define, terror, muder, killing etc.

    What we can probably agree on is that neither of us are likely to convince the other that he is right. And so it is across the entire community and within the broader political family.

  • Thomas Barber

    I was talking about terrorists its just that you have an amazing ability to dance on a pinhead when defining the word terrorist. Its crazy but in this part of the world its becoming the norm to be able to say, one mans terrorist is anothers RUC officer

  • MainlandUlsterman

    so to you a police officer is a terrorist? I’m not sure it’s me that’s at sea with defining his terms.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Probably right we won’t convince each other. But I hope we have each other asking questions of our assumptions we wouldn’t otherwise have done. It cheers me up to think so anyway!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that’s fine as far as it goes, but it has the effect in the context of Northern Ireland of creating a hierarchy of victims’ rights based on the source of grievance. Those with grievances against state actors – mainly C/N/R – would be massively favoured. Hence can’t work that way, it creates fresh unfairness. If doing something like truth and reconciliation, it would need to be open and fair to all and involve all the protagonists. Each murder would ideally be given equal time, focus and weight.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ya but there is one probem. The state is not responsible for much of the actions of others apart from where collusion has been involved. So, there might not be any administrative way of researching many killings if the authors of those killings are dead themselves or if they are simply unwilling to come forward. I accept your point of course, it would be ideal to have perfect balance but it may not be possible. There is no central structure anymore within republicanism and loyalism. In fact, for much of the IRA activities carried out under the cell structure; Belfast IRA people might have no idea who is responsible for fermanagh actions and vice versa. it would be impossible to deny victims their right to answers simply because there is a lack of evidence or information available to others. Simply put, i doubt republicans and loyalists have a filing cabinet somewhere containing a list of killings with the culprits name alongside.

  • barnshee

    “Soldier attacked during conflict” would appear to be something of an occupational hazard”

    This lot appear not to agree

    “Calls by 150 ex-soldiers to probe Troubles attacks on them could ‘bring PSNI to a standstill’


  • MainlandUlsterman

    It would be about oral testimony in the main I’m sure. But there are many witnesses to many criminal acts, little of which is on the record and need to be put on it. I don’t underestimate the size of the task of gathering it in, and it can’t start toon enough.

    I’m assuming those within the Republican Movement calling for an open approach from others are now hard at work getting their own secrets out into the public domain. Or rather, I’m assuming they’re not 🙂

  • Robin Keogh

    I have no idea. I have never even had so much as a discussion about it. To be honest i don’t think it occupies the minds of South Wicklow citizens. However should there be a reconciliation commission or some sort of truth commission set up to engage all sides in the conflict, i for one would be expecting republicans to play their part fully.

  • Thomas Barber

    If the shoe fits an all that but in the interests of fairness to people like yourself MU just what would any sane person call police officers or indeed anyone who would give weapons to people defined as terrorists that were later used in multiple murders, police officers who controlled and directed people who would be difined as terrorists, police officers who supplied the intelligence to people who would be difined as terrorists that were later used to murder innocent victims, police officers who ensured people who would be defined as terrorists evaded justice. What would any sane person call police officers who when supplied with intelligence that a murdrer or murders were about to take place by people defined as terrorists, but working as state agents within a terrorist organisation, rather than protecting the victim or victims or thwarting the murder attemts or even warn the victim or victims, they simply allowed the victim or victims to be murdered in order to boost the state agent/terrorists credibility within the terrorist group they belonged to.

    If they done the above hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of times what would any sane person call anyone or any group that allowed such a situation to occur on such a vast scale.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but does the existence of some deeply corrupt police officers acting against the leadership of the force (and deeply condemned by that leadership and other officers), render everyone else in that force “terrorists”? Seems startlingly convenient for the IRA if so. I note you focus again on what the police / security services got wrong and have very little to say about the bigger picture of the saving of thousands of lives from terrorist attacks – attacks you seem much less concerned about. Can’t imagine why.

    You can only take ‘my country right or wrong’ so far, Thomas. What the terrorists did was inexcusable – and you’ll note I’m not excusing police errors and crimes in saying that, just pointing out the huge terrorist elephant in the room you choose to ignore when discussing the security forces’ record in Northern Ireland. Had it occurred to you that focussing on state wrongs more than paramilitary wrongs may be, even unwittingly, motivated by a desire for ‘your side’ to be somehow vindicated in embarking on its 30 year campaign of murder?

  • Thomas Barber

    Police officers who colluded in the murders of hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of innocent people are simply “deeply corrupt” yet all those republicans who were charged with lesser crimes like membership, possession or conspiracy are terrorists. Like I said before your ability to dance on a pinhead when defining the meaning of terrorism knows no bounds.

    You claim the RUC saved thousands of lives – Obviously you have proof so lets see it.

    “Had it occurred to you that focussing on state wrongs more than paramilitary wrongs may be, even unwittingly, motivated by a desire for ‘your side’ to be somehow vindicated in embarking on its 30 year campaign of murder”

    Your now scraping the bottom of the barrel suggesting that I am in some way attempting to give succor to anyone who engaged in using violence including murder. At least I call a spade a spade you cant even admit that those same police officers who were complicit in hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of murders were no different than those terrorists who they allowed free reign to pull the triggers or set off the bombs that led to the enormous loss of life.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you’re seriously arguing the IRA and INLA weren’t terrorists?

    I don’t know if you’re reading my comments but just to clarify again … I’m as against members of the security forces who broke the law and committed murders as you are. I want them to be prosecuted and serve jail terms like anyone else would. The criminal justice system should be left to deal with those murders as it deals with any murder. Where we differ is that you regard those actions as rendering the entire police force a terrorist organisation, the entire army a terrorist organisation, if I understand you correctly. But that’s a massive leap – and you don’t explain what justifies characterising the entire security forces in that way. After Phil Flanagan’s little lesson in accuracy from the courts, I’d have thought people would be a little more careful about generalising the crimes of a few to all members of the security forces.

    I’m not some Pollyanna about the dark side of the security forces’ thankless work disrupting the terrorists. Where a few crossed the line into murder, I regard them as what they were: members of state forces disgracing their country and their uniform, acting against orders and betraying their many more numerous brave colleagues. But as we know, that was a relatively small part of the Troubles. Attempts to expand this into “hundreds” of murders seem to hang on some pretty odd logic – that murders by Loyalist cells that had been infiltrated are deemed to be the responsibility of the state. Now, there was a particular issue with West Belfast UDA/UFF in the 80s where the security force handlers seem to have gone rogue to some extent. But Da Silva pointed out this was the exception and that in the bulk of other cases, state infiltration most likely reduced the number of crimes emanating from the cell (t’s impossible to prove of course but it’s strongly suggested by the relatively low level of murders). States need to be able to run undercover agents and informers inside terror cells and it is not easy or clean. I would hope we would all support them in those efforts – where done right, they are really the main way you reduce the threat to the public from terrorists.

    Where the state bears some guilt is in inadequate supervision of a few particular units involved at the coalface of anti-terrorist effort, which was in part because they were doing such undercover and dangerous work, they were cut some slack to get on with it. In some cases, members of those units betrayed the trust put in them. More questions should have been asked, of course. The context is though that the UK state was duty bound to carry out extremely difficult and dangerous anti-terrorist intelligence and policing operations against Europe’s most sophisticated terrorist operation. If you simply regard the state as the same as the terrorists because a small number of its officers went rogue, it effectively makes pretty much any state trying to combat terrorism likely to be deemed ‘terrorist’ itself. You make anti-terrorist policing impossible. But look, if you focus your ire where it belongs, on the rogue operators and rogue handlers and not on the wider anti-terrorist policing and intelligence operation, then we’re on the same page.

    I don’t actually think we disagree that much here. Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to regard the IRA, INLA, UDA, UVF etc as terrorists as I do and you are appalled as I am by instances where state agents acted ultra vires and committed murders. And hopefully you agree it would be wrong to characterise the rest of the security force effort over 30 years as “terrorism”, or anything like it. That would make Tom Elliott a terrorist – and I assume you wouldn’t say that?