Interesting judgement in London yesterday which I think asks serious questions about how we are going about handling the legacy of the Troubles…
Last year, a High Court judge ruled that John Downey was an “active participant” in the bombing.Last year, a High Court judge ruled that John Downey was an “active participant” in the bombing.
On Wednesday, the court ruled that an award of “substantial damages” to “mark society’s condemnation” of the bombing can only be made if either parliament or the supreme court allowed it.
However, the court awarded £715,000 in the case of Sarah Jane Young, daughter of one of the soldiers, L/Cpl Jeffrey Young, who was 20 when he was killed.
This is in recognition of her father’s loss of earnings in what is known as a dependency claim.
It’s one of those cases where the passage of time probably intensifies the problem (and the quantum ordered against Downey himself). Justice delayed is not only denied, it merely increase the cost and the depth of injury. This, remember, is just the first of four other cases currently in play in this case alone.
A short, unpublished paper on legacy, recently sent to Slugger by Trevor Ringland, notes:
3,665 were killed, there were approximately 3,000 related suicides, thousands were injured, thousands were imprisoned and billions of pounds of damage was inflicted on our economy. That is before we consider the less measurable damage caused to society and the deep divisions that remain today.
According to the book Lost Lives, Republicans were responsible for 2,148 of these deaths, loyalist paramilitaries 1,071. The Army caused 309 deaths and the police 50.
The lack of balance and context in dealing with past crimes is undermining reconciliation rather than assisting it, when it could be very different. Too often we respond to the loudest voices and allow political agendas to warp the process.
So long as the political system is unable or unwilling to act in providing a broad, fair and accessible reconciliation process which puts victims at the centre of its concerns, the filing of such civil claims against known actors in the death or maiming of their loved one is one of the few actions available to families uncatered for under present arrangements.
It’s far from an ideal way to proceed, and depending on how far it goes it could create substantial instabilities within the presence system. But the piecemeal and highly political response proposed in the Stormont House Agreement simply won’t respond to the vast majority of victim’s families whose lives have been marred by non or anti state actors.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty