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Agreement needed on dealing with Troubles

The Police Ombudsman, the Lord Chief Justice and the Director of Prosecutions have all recently commented on how to deal with Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Each holds a position that makes it hard to express their personal views, which is a pity, because someone with authority in our society needs to give a candid assessment of the issues.

Of course, the best scenario is that every death is fully investigated, as well as any incident involving serious injury or damaged property.

If enough evidence is uncovered, then those responsible for every crime would be prosecuted. That is how we deal properly with what happened in the Troubles.

Apart from issues with the resources, the problem is that, at the insistence of Irish nationalism, in the shape of John Hume and the Irish government, the peace process in the 1990s was built upon involving the biggest perpetrator of violence (republicans committed more than 2,000 murders, injured thousands more and caused billions of pounds worth of damage). The British Government acquiesced. That process culminated in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, although neither the IRA nor the DUP signed up to it.

As a consequence, the way we dealt with the past was surely compromised as putting the perpetrators in prison could have upset the fragile balance of the peace/political process?

Is it not, in reality, the case that, since that time, our society has been trying to avoid dealing with the Troubles properly?

Either we deal with Troubles' crimes properly and forensically, across the board, or we suspend investigations for a period, maybe 30 years, and commit ourselves to a major, irreversible programme of reconciliation, while respecting the "consent principle".

The political environment over the next year may well determine which choice is most viable.

TREVOR RINGLAND

Holywood, Co Down

Belfast Telegraph

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