Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Probing role of RUC mustn't distort reality of terrorism

Focus on collusion ignores the fact paramilitaries carried out most murders, says Trevor Ringland

It is bad enough that many of our lives were affected by a dark and dirty war, but the way in which we are dealing with the past is merely causing more harm - especially for those who feel that their loss is being hidden in the debate about certain aspects of wrong-doing.

In particular, a primary emphasis has been placed upon selective victimhood as opposed to solving a collective mess of harm, death and injury.

Between 1968 and 2005, nearly 3,400 people died. Just over half of these were civilians, of which 90% were victims of paramilitary violence.

Nearly 30% of all those who died were security force members. The smallest group - some 13% - were paramilitaries.

Of these, around 140 republican paramilitaries were killed by the security forces, compared to more than 900 security force members killed by republicans.

A key goal for republicans is to put the security forces in the dock. A strong and enduring republican argument is that the security forces aided loyalists who then went on to kill republican paramilitaries.

But it would seem that only 25 republican paramilitaries were killed by loyalists, an example of data not matching the scale of the allegations made.

While our society broke down in so many ways, it did not do so completely. We fortunately managed to avoid a civil war and this was largely by virtue of the actions of the security forces and the vast majority of people in our society who wanted to live together in peace.

Ultimately, it was also a combination of both those dynamics - the security forces holding the line and the vast majority of people being against violence - that led to the peace process.

The RUC were involved in 52 deaths, some of which were controversial and others not and in turn suffered with 302 of their members murdered. In addition, some 10,000 were injured, more than 300 became seriously disabled and around 70 officers committed suicide.

It should also be remembered that the RUC solved 50% of murders committed by loyalists, compared with 30% committed by republicans - hardly a sign of being in cahoots with the former.

While some members of the RUC acted outside the rule of law, the evidence indicates that the vast majority - including Special Branch - worked through it, in spite of the stresses, strains and loss that they endured.

Those who push the charge of collusion create a hierarchy of victims and obscure the greater reality of who killed whom and the actuality that the vast majority who died were killed by paramilitaries.

Undoubtedly, we made a mess of relationships in Northern Ireland. Over the next few years, we are probably going to have to revisit that past to try to bring closure to as many families who suffered tragedy as is possible.

As we do so, it is incumbent on those of us who want to share the future to ensure we keep a focus on building a genuinely shared society, which is surely the greatest tribute that we can pay to all of those who suffered tragedy in our past.

It would seem there is an attempt to rewrite history being made, particularly by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

According to them, they won the peace - yet they ignore the fact that it was the flawed ideologies that they, with others, promoted which fed the violence.

But more concerning is that victimhood has been turned into a proxy war.

We had the fog of war, but we should not tolerate a prejudiced fog of wrongdoing.

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