New revelations about the Ballymurphy massacre require urgent action by the British government

The report Mick highlights of a UVF sniper firing into Ballymurphy  at the time of the massacre in 1971 for  which up to now  1 Para was believed  to be mainly responsible,  underlines the paramount importance of finding out basic facts in dealing with the past. As I argued the other day, it is not only unacceptable but self-defeating for armchair soldiers in today’s battle of the narratives to thwart the rule of law, whether they are unionists defending the reputation of the security forces against allegations of widespread collusion with paramilitaries; republicans fearing exposure of the full extent of  IRA ruthlessness even in their own communities and how widely the IRA  was riddled with informers ; or the British government refusing to  describe  the limitations of  disclosure required by “national security,”and so attracting accusations of  wholesale cover-up.

The deadlock over the legacy and every other aspect of government has  gone on for so long that the public have been dulled into acceptance for a lamentable state of affairs and now  treat  the absence of responsible government as normal.

Public impotence and cynicism  have  permitted the British government   to shirk the responsibilities of what  is still its sovereign authority. Any excuse will do:  the massive distractions of Brexit; wrangling over the procedure for consulting the Dublin government under the GFA  or a right of veto over direct  rule apparently claimed by Dublin;  over- fastidious distaste for reversing the course of devolution  even temporarily, even when it is in abeyance.  As for the local parties,  the DUP refuses to deal ; and  nationalists, rather than support temporary direct rule, seem in the end to prefer no government at all. No wonder nervy speculation about a border poll is filling the vacuum.

In a first move to try to break the deadlock, the UK government should be pressed to summon up the will to take action over issues like the Ballymurphy massacre.  As dealing with the past is probably the subject which most divides the local parties,  Westminster must  take  charge and Dublin will support them.

If they can pass the Budget, they can directly  allocate already earmarked  funds to the judiciary now to convene the fifty or so inquests such as  that into the Ballymurphy massacre that have languished for nearly half a century.  The latest revelation of a UVF sniper if confirmed, is one excellent reason why  some people should not jump to  dismal  conclusions that the facts always support a republican narrative.  Not that such a claim is  ever a valid reason for thwarting the rule of law.

Ballymurphy Massacre families campaign for justice” by “Ballymurphy Massacre families campaign for justice” is licensed under “Ballymurphy Massacre families campaign for justice

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