In dealing with the past, favoured treatment for soldiers can only end in tears

The Times (£) reports that a decision by the British government to review the potential caseload against soldiers for actions during the Troubles includes a proposal to set a time limit  on the investigations.  The move is a response to a campaign by Conservative MPs and peers already angered by what they regard as over-zealous prosecutions after the Iraq war.

It is understood that the new legislation, which is due to be drafted by the Northern Ireland Office and the British Ministry of Defence, could include a time limit on investigations and an age limit on who could be taken to court. Mr Brokenshire said that he believed the peace process had been almost exclusively focused on what the UK did rather than on the actions of Irish republican terrorist

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said …

“There are no provisions in the Good Friday Agreement or the succeeding agreements for any form of amnesty or protection from prosecution. There is no such provision in the Stormont House Agreement,” the department said.

“Government is not aware of any plans to extend the scope of any draft legislation on the Stormont House legacy institutions in this way.”

However much it pleases  London papers and a section of the Conservative party, this move if it happens will do  little for justice and  nothing for the public interest and public confidence in Northern Ireland.  Brokenshire like his predecessor Theresa Villiers appears to swallow the notion of “one-sided justice,” that too much attention is being paid to the roles of the security forces and not enough to the main aggressors, the “terrorists.” This is  legally illiterate. Justice is indivisible and cannot be shared out politically.

This sort of controversy is what inevitably happens with a piecemeal approach to dealing with the past. It features in Sinn Fein’s list of grievances, however hypocritically. It  doesn’t  require falling for the republican argument that one side was as bad as the other to reject any such move. Although they try to suppress it, it  would split  the two governments  at a time when united approaches should be paramount..

The £150 million set aside for the purpose should be spent reviewing the whole Troubles case load without fear or favour over the next five years.

Then the whole wretched business should stop.


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