Amnesty for soldiers and police officers appears imminent after the election. And the effect on prospects for restoring the Assembly?

The government appear to be on the brink of taking the legacy of the Troubles out of the hands of the Assembly. The only  question remains if they would entertain an agreed counter proposal from the Assembly parties . You can work out for yourself  the prospects of that

The Times (£) are reporting that

The British government has moved one step closer to shielding British soldiers who served during the Troubles from murder prosecutions despite concerns that it could collapse the Stormont House agreement.

The proposed move by the Conservatives, who are expected to be in power after the UK general election, would set London at odds with the Irish government, which maintains that the agreement does not allow Westminster to pass a law granting amnesty to any party accused of a crime during the Troubles.

The British parliament’s defence select committee yesterday published a report that outlined how a statute of limitations covering every death caused by a soldier before 1998 could be set out. It said that as well as an amnesty for soldiers a truth and recovery process should be established for bereaved families. It also repeated claims that ex-servicemen were being unfairly targeted despite protests from the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that there was no evidence for such a complaint.

“Our report sets out the steps the government must take in the next parliament — as a priority— to protect former service personnel facing investigations into historical allegations,” the committee said.

The report was published as a last gasp of this Parliament and has clear government backing. On the face of it if the government were actually to proceed on the basis of the Times report  – and Brokenshire has said action is imminent – the effect on the party talks to restore the Assembly can easily be imagined. Rather than an amnesty for the security forces to match the two year limit on sentences for paramilitary crimes – itself a questionable  bias –    it would be  infinitely preferable to allow the courts to draw conclusions from the two year limit of paramilitary sentences for crimes committee before April 1998 or for Parliament enact similar legislation for soldiers and police officers.  Such an Act for the security forces alone  would be open to serious legal challenge.

An amnesty of this kind would only be tolerable if followed by amnesty all round. And that is unacceptable to  most parties including nationalists and public opinion.    There is an unclear implication  in the report that if an HIU (Independent  Historic Investigations Unit )  were set up it would fail to uncover much more evidence against paramilitaries and that net effect of inquiry and inquests would be to concentrate on the security forces, which the committee calls  “oppressive”.

From  the select committee report  

 

2.So far, the overall process of investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland has been deeply unsatisfactory. The instability of the investigatory bodies, the limited resources and manpower provided to them, and continuing question marks over the independence of the investigations has delivered a vicious cycle of investigation and re-investigation that fails both former service personnel and the families of those who died. (Paragraph 24)

3.It is clear that the status quo is not sustainable. The Legacy Investigation Branch was never intended to be more than a short-term mechanism to bridge the gap until the Stormont House Agreement was implemented. It is morally indefensible for former service personnel to be caught in limbo, with the threat of investigation hanging over them. The Government in the next Parliament must bring forward legislative proposals—as a matter of urgency—to remedy the situation. We outline a menu of possible options in the final chapter of this report. (Paragraph 25)

The space for legal imagination: options for the Government

4.It is clear from the experience of these legacy investigations that, unless a decision is taken to draw a line under all Troubles-related cases, without exception, they will continue to grind on for many years to come—up to half-a-century after the incidents concerned. (Paragraph 51)

5.Accordingly, we recommend the adoption of Option One—the enactment of a statute of limitations, covering all Troubles-related incidents, up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which involved former members of the Armed Forces. This should be coupled with the continuation and development of a truth recovery mechanism which would provide the best possible prospect of bereaved families finding out the facts, once no-one needed to fear being prosecuted. (Paragraph 52)

6.Although it is beyond the strict remit of the Defence Committee, we would encourage the next Government to extend this provision to include former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and other former security personnel. It will also be a matter for the next Government to decide, after appropriate consultations, whether the statute of limitations should also cover all Troubles-related incidents. (Paragraph 53)

7.If the 1998 legislation had not ensured that future convictions for terrorist crimes—however heinous—would result in nothing more than a short prison sentence, then there would be a case for arguing that natural justice required investigations to continue, no matter how long after the event. (Paragraph 54)

8.We believe that to subject former Service personnel to legal pursuit under the current arrangements is wholly oppressive and a denial of natural justice. It can be ended only by a statute of limitations. Our expert witnesses agreed that the UK Parliament has it entirely within its power to enact such a statute and we call upon the Government in the next Parliament to do so as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 55)

 

The report said that an amnesty for soldiers was needed because under the terms of Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act, 1998, “terrorists who committed multiple murders during the Troubles face, in practice, no more than a two-year sentence, even if successfully prosecuted”.  (The human rights lawyer Kieran McEvoy) said that it would be preferable to implement the Stormont House agreement and allow cases to be adjudicated in the normal fashion, ensuring the rule of law is upheld. The sentences act could be reviewed then to allow British soldiers to apply for shortened sentences.

Jonathan Tonge, of the department of politics in University of Liverpool, presented data to the committee that showed a cross-community rejection of amnesties for those who admitted perpetuating violence during the Troubles. He also submitted data which showed cross-community support for the principles that all those killed or injured in the Troubles should be seen as victims and that all those bereaved should be treated equally.

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  • the keep

    And what makes you so unbearable chippy?

  • Aim Here

    The guy who planted the Shankhill bomb died when the bomb went off prematurely. I take it you mean one of his accomplices.

  • Anon Anon

    I would agree to “truth” rather than justice. But the one sided nature of this makes it explicit that the British Government does not believe in the rule of law.

    I pity the next people the British Government decides it’s agents can murder with impunity.

  • Anon Anon

    The local politicians can’t agree so we should abolish the rule of law for the Brits only.

    Moral cowardice on your part defending it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The media treatment of McGuinness’s death though? They got away with it. For people responsible for the number of murders the terrorist leaderships oversaw / ordered, they served between them a pitiful amount of time in jail. And far more Troubles murders went unpunished by the criminal justice system than punished. That leaves a big hole in our collective souls.

  • Gavin Smithson

    You are a supporter of terrorism. Pure garbage

  • file

    Brian, again, paramilitaries are expected to commit illegal acts; state forces are not permitted to commit illegal acts. Even if the act is the same (murder), the two are not equivalent and cannot be treated the same way.

  • Gavin Smithson

    Better than your backward republic of monocultural parochial Ira loving peasants

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Anyone counted the hours or years of the lives those prisoners took from their victims? What the prisoners “suffered” was a drop in the ocean.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think you need to withdraw that comment.

  • james

    Makes a change from the more typically PR-fly Republican fudge ”I’m no supporter of terrorists, but…” – sort of the Jude Collins line.

    I suppose at least Jonto is honest with himself about his bigotry.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “The reality”?!
    The reality was that serving in the security forces was about the best thing anyone could choose to do during the Troubles. They deserve our eternal gratitude and they have mine.

  • Granni Trixie

    Yes the person with him is what I ought to have said.

  • Katyusha

    I’d say you’d have to draw a distinction between those from NI who joined the UDR and RUC (and likely joined in order to be of service in “their” fight), and the young squddies from England who really did not know what they were getting into.

  • Katyusha

    Please do, Tropicop. You look like you’re relying on Cameron’s old tactic of “give them a referendum, they’ll lose it and that will shut them up”

    In his first roll of the dice, the YES campaign went from around 25% support to just over 50 at stages, and scared the Westminster establishment into emergency mode of combined grovelling and fearmongering. As it was, the YES side lost, and subsequently enjoyed a massive increase in support for independence, the SNP swept almost every seat in Scotland, and are now clamouring for another referendum. They avoided the oil price collapse, too. If you could have picked a strategic way to lose a vote, you couldn’t have done it better.

    His second throw of the dice, to silence UKIP and the Eurosceptic fringe of his own party… well, we know how that turned out.

    So while I agree with Enda – strategically, it’s much better to let a few years of Brexit tighten the purse strings and harden the border first, please, by all means, give us a border poll. The nationalist electorate is energised, motivated, and we’re starting from an even better position than the last two dice-throws the UK govt. gambled on.

    Whatever way a border poll falls for nationalists, the strategy of how to use the result to assure their objectives is more important than the outcome of the (first) vote.

  • AntrimGael

    Now, now if you are going to throw abuse at least be factual. “How The Celts Saved Britain” – 2 part documentary by Dan Snow. Look, listen and learn! I suggest you watch it.

  • james

    “all has changed, and changed utterly”

    What, again??

  • james

    Instant karma.

  • james

    Very similar tactics, fanatacism and methodology, yes.

  • james

    I think that youngster does deserve an apology.

    He also deserves an apology from the IRA who effectively used the nationalist populace at large as a human shield – both for their own protection and as a PR tool.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Really?! Does that include the internment era?

  • grumpy oul man

    So a murderer is ok as long as he wears a uniform.
    Just yesterday we were told four soldier’s not only killed a man but conspired to lie about it!
    It is nice to see your true colors, Irish dead are less important than British dead.
    At least your consitant.

  • Jag

    And my chihuahua terrorises the neighbour’s cat. Is it a “terrorist” too.

    State terrorised people by the use of car bombs (Dublin, on several occasions, Monaghan), guns (Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy and so on), torture, imprisonment without trial, trial without jury and so on.

  • Barneyt

    There is some truth to the statement that the past does have to be sorted, certainly aspects of it. You can’t dismiss the importance and relevance of the past Carte Blanche. I spent years in England listening to folks implore us to just move on. They spoke as if our problems and causes of the problem were in the distant past and mostly internal. They could not see how the lack of resolution and recognition of inglorious deeds by the British were fuelling the present. We still have that risk. If the British stood up and took responsibility for the mess they created, we could move on with a few simple words from them, however they are intent on throwing everything into the same melting pot to hide the truth. Taking responsibility and showing remorse has a cleansing effect but we are a long way from that with the present colonialesque government. The British have scope to do this independently of all the reactive and counter reactive actions over here. Seeking equality between paramilitary deeds and those of the British state forces is provocative. If you react to a bully that does not make you a bully? The cause and trigger for many problems lies at the steps of Downing Street. They have however been conveniently distracted by the monsters that “their” environment has produced and accordingly let off the hook by those that strayed into terrorism and spinoff crime, rather than revolution. This however should not detract from the crimes committed by the state. Arguing for equality between state and resulting terrorist is dangerous game playing.

  • Jim M

    Enda I think you misunderstand the term ‘the Crown’. It’s a figure of speech, not necessarily indicating any sycophantic attitude to the aristocracy. My dad (English, not in the security forces) is a ‘crown’ employee (he works for the planning inspectorate). The police (AFAIK) swear loyalty to the ‘crown’, not the government of the day; to my mind that’s actually preferable.

  • Barneyt

    How about limiting the prison term to two years with respect to the state forces. That’s kind of an amnesty. Five minutes and admission of guilt would do nicely for me, where guilt is found of course.

  • Barneyt

    You let yourself down with that comment I’m afraid

  • Barneyt

    There is some truth to the statement that the past does have to be sorted, certainly aspects of it. You can’t dismiss the importance and relevance of the past Carte Blanche. I spent years in England listening to folks implore us to just move on. They spoke as if our problems and causes of the problem were in the distant past and mostly internal. They could not see how the lack of resolution and recognition of inglorious deeds by the British were fuelling the present. We still have that risk. If the British stood up and took responsibility for the mess they created, we could move on with a few simple words from them, however they are intent on throwing everything into the same melting pot to hide the truth. Taking responsibility and showing remorse has a cleansing effect but we are a long way from that with the present colonialesque government. The British have scope to do this independently of all the reactive and counter reactive actions over here. Seeking equality between paramilitary deeds and those of the British state forces is provocative. If you react to a bully that does not make you a bully? The cause and trigger for many problems lies at the steps of Downing Street. They have however been conveniently distracted by the monsters that “their” environment has produced and accordingly let off the hook by those that strayed into terrorism and spinoff crime, rather than revolution. This however should not detract from the crimes committed by the state. Arguing for equality between state and resulting terrorist is dangerous game playing.

  • Granni Trixie

    Agree – it was the cannon fodder i had in mind.

  • The Living End

    Tried and sentenced. That’s the difference

  • The Living End

    In other words they’ve tried as many of the paramilitaries as possible, now it’s time to protect ‘our boys’. A clearer example of British justice in Ireland could not be found.

    Whatever about ISIS, the world will see this for what it is

  • The Living End

    There’s the rub. The Brits will never admit guilt. It doesn’t sit well with their self image

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The answer to a lot of problems in NI is to stick to that historic agreement and otherwise let justice take its course. I guess that may not lead to results you like, Enda, but I suspect you never agreed with all the terms of the GFA anyway? Correct me if I’m wrong on that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I bounced several posts back and forth with Keep It Real on here the other day before getting to a similar point – steadfastly refused to condemn the PIRA’s behaviour in the Troubles. This after long lectures to yours truly on injustice and human rights.

    We can get underneath the veneer on Slugger. However it is a thick veneer, not as sometimes suggested due to self-discipline or savvy, though there is some of that – it’s due to lack of self-awareness and lack of openness. A lot of the more cultist voices can’t begin to understand the deeper psychological drivers behind the positions they take and genuinely believe see themselves as enlightened, open, tolerant people, as that’s what their culture plays back to them about themselves and they aren’t open enough to the outside world to question it. All the while defending the most vicious and brutal attacks on the other tribe, vilifying those attacked and refusing them even the right of self-defence.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We beat the paramilitaries, is the big picture. And we were extremely generous in letting them save face among their own. However, scales were always going to fall from the eyes of their sympathisers at some point – the SF-IRA story around the Peace Process is after all a rather big lie and even they can’t paper over that crack forever. The question is, now that the penny has dropped that there is no dynamic towards Irish unity in the GFA, how will SF wriggle out of it without looking to the world like they’re the problem? This is what we are seeing SF attempting now.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Those who really wanted to take part in the “fight” joined the Loyalist paramilitaries for the most part. Those joining either the RUC or UDR for that would have been bitterly disappointed – they met a full on assault on any such ideas in training. For all its flaws the UDR did an amazing job and the vast majority of those who served were thoroughly decent people doing a really unenviable job and putting themselves at huge risk.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Makes it sound like you don’t think the Army should have gone in to help. What was the alternative? The police force in 1969 was too small to cope with the level of violence.

  • Enda

    Quite a few who wanted to take part in the ‘fight’ joined state forces and the loyalist paramilitaries, and quite a few who joined one or the other became close collaborators.

  • Enda

    Yes they were too small, and if the army didn’t come in, they would have been beaten, and maybe proper change could have taken place. There also wouldn’t have been a surge in IRA activities if the army had of stayed out.

  • Enda

    They have yours because you are one-sided.

  • Enda

    I understand it well enough. The crown represents the state, but the crown is the royal family, who are eating, sleeping, 5hitting humans, sycophantically revered by the media and the public.

  • Enda

    Know your place Gavin. Stay on your knees with your head bowed in awe at another human.

    Know your place son.

  • Enda

    I don’t people worship. I have a mind of my own, and I don’t need to be kept in line unlike those Brits.

  • Enda

    I was a full supporter of every bit of it, from the points that disappointed me, right to the parts I supported – all of it.

    I think Theresa May, should just go on live TV and tear it up. That’s what it’s worth to HMG now.

  • The Living End

    How would you suggest? What do you think the British government would listen to?

  • grumpy oul man

    You would wonder what goes through the minds of the DUP, Arleen make a nice gesture on the Irish language which would do her no harm among nationlists and takes some wind out of the Shinners sails and within 24 hours they announce that in their opinion the murderers of innocent Catholics should be let off.
    Apparently according to Unionist murdered taigs don’t deserve justice.

  • grumpy oul man

    If beaten the paramilitaries you mean, working closely with them and supporting them, yep then you beat the paramilitaries.
    Most people would call it colluding with them, but you aren’t most people are you.

  • Granni Trixie

    Agree – many were glad to see them at first.

  • grumpy oul man

    So no soldier or policeman went to work with murder on their mind,
    Just done it causily then.

  • grumpy oul man

    Something that could only be said by someone who was never exposed to the secterian violence of the UDR,
    I take it your closing your mind to the amount of loyalists terrorists in the UDR and of course the glenaann gang, or how about all those guns British agents helped UR to smuggle in.
    Do none of those things count.

  • grumpy oul man

    I must pass that sentiment onto the relatives of the people they murdered, or is it dead innocent taigs they have your eternal gratitude for!

  • Jim M

    I very much doubt that most crown employees or members of the crown forces actually see themselves as servants of the Royals. There are pros and cons to the UK becoming a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy, but that’s up to the UK’s citizens to decide…

  • mac tire

    Yes, AG. Pete Shirlow and Professor Ruth Jamison give a figure of around 25,000 imprisoned (15,000 Republicans and between 5,000 and 10,000 Loyalists). Sir George Quigley puts the figure at over 30,000.
    This would include Internment, where between 1971-1975, 1,981 people were interned – 1,874 Catholic / Republican, while 107 were Protestant / Loyalist.

  • The Living End

    There are, and me never have been, pardon letters, as you know well. You pretend otherwise as it gives you a straw man.

    Some OTRs were given letters saying ‘no need to be OTR, we’re not looking for you, based on current evidence. However if, in the future new evidence comes to light, we’ll come looking for you then.

    Neither a pardon nor even a ‘comfort’, as new evidence may come to light at any time, without warning.

    The SINGLE time those letters allowed a suspect walk free was due to a legal technicality, the like of which happens in courtrooms all the time.

    But of course you know all this. Just never waste a good distraction eh?

  • The Living End

    Please do

  • WiseJeffrey

    The volunteers of the U.F.F. and U.V.F. also need an amnesty,

  • grumpy oul man

    Why should drug dealers get a amnesty, there is no political element in their activities just criminal.

  • grumpy oul man

    Pardon letters? Making things up again

  • grumpy oul man

    You might be willing to respect democracy’ but how will you convince unionisn to respect democracy’, a honest look at the past shows that unionisn only respects democracy when it gets the result it wants, if not then it’s joining forces with the loyalist terror groups and violence.

  • The Living End

    ‘the RA made me do it’. Did Gerry Adams eat your hamster?

  • The Living End

    Are you going to defend your lie about pardon letters?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Cryptic … care to explain your attack?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Before IRA plan to necessitate more aggressive policing through violence, then point to said policing action as somehow random sectarianism, took hold.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Enda there’s only one of us who condemns all the terrorism and illegal activity done by their own side – and it’s not you.

  • MainlandUlsterman
  • grumpy oul man

    Nothing cryptic about it, very simple really.
    You claimed that “pardon letters” were given out, this is not true, you were asked to prove this claim and now it seems you can’t understand a simple question.

  • grumpy oul man

    I don’t think you read that link, the pardons were given to supergrass,s , I would have thought that you though they deserved awarded not punished
    The ONRs were not pardons but just a letter saying that at the moment no police force was looking for you.
    Surely someone with a degree in law ( as you claim to have) would know the difference and indeed read something before you produce it as evidence.