Legal aid snub for family of slain UDR man compounds sense of injustice and raises spectre of a hierarchy of victims
Imagine the anguish of the wife and family of UDR man James Speers, who was shot dead by the IRA in 1976, in the long years since that foul deed was committed. They no doubt heard rumours and allegations of why and how he was singled out and who was responsible, but they never had any firm evidence, simply because no inquest into the death was ever held.
That is a blot on the justice system. Surely it is the right of every family so bereaved to have the matter investigated and the facts laid out in an open court. Yet for 40 years that family has heard nothing official and now are told that they cannot obtain legal aid to bring the case.
The victim was a man who did his duty in the darkest days of the Troubles and who laid down his life in the service of his country when he felt it was imperilled. It is not unnatural for his family to feel that the country owed him something, even if just a public examination of the facts that surrounded his death.
Of course, it would have been preferable had the killers been caught and jailed, but then many murders went unsolved.
The family obviously feel they have been let down. Even worse, they feel that no one, except them, really cares what happened to Mr Speers all those decades ago. He has been consigned to the grim history of the Troubles as another statistic.
His wife is now dead, gone to her grave without receiving any sort of justice that might have given her some consolation. But his children and grandchildren are left with a painful legacy which will percolate down the generations, a legacy which will tell of a man who died, but why or by whom remains unknown.
The Speers family, as this newspaper has said so many times, are not unique. There are many legacy inquests still to be held, but families like his feel there is a hierarchy when it comes to deciding which will be funded.
That is a dangerous notion to let fester. It taints the justice system and, worst of all, it adds to the grief and anger of the bereaved.