Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: We can’t pull veil over past
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said there should be “no distinction” between British soldiers and paramilitaries when it comes to Troubles prosecutions.
Mr Coveney told The Sunday Times that creating a “hierarchy of blame” over historic killings damages reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
He also said the British and Irish Governments agree the legacy process has “stalled” and said the two administrations need to work together on a solution.
Also speaking on the issue, new DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said society here needs to move “beyond an examination of the past” as he called for a way forward which moves to the “next phase” of the peace process.
On Friday the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland said that the case against Soldier F for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972 will not proceed.
The prosecution of another veteran, Soldier B, for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty in Derry later in 1972, will also not proceed, the PPS said.
The discontinuation of the high-profile prosecutions comes after the PPS reviewed the cases in light of a recent court ruling that caused the collapse of another Troubles murder trial involving two military veterans.
Last week, a joint letter from Simon Coveney and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to the Stormont parties called for a "short and focused” set of talks to deal with legacy issues.
Speaking before the PPS decision, Mr Coveney said in his view a “crime is a crime”, adding that the law should not make “a distinction between soldiers and others who were involved in killings”.
“I know some people will make the distinction between people they would regard as terrorists and people who were security forces at the time, [but] the only way you get true reconciliation in Northern Ireland is if people are held to account for crimes that were committed, regardless of whether they were wearing a uniform or not,” he told The Sunday Times.
“The way forward here is to apply the law to everybody and recognise, of course, that, because many of these incidents happened many years ago that, in many cases, it won’t be possible to secure a conviction. But you shouldn’t get more protection because you were wearing a uniform.”
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said any process on legacy must give people the opportunity to “explore whether there is the prospect of prosecutions against those who murdered their loved ones”.
“We need to move our society beyond an examination of the past to the kind of reconciliation and healing we desire to see in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“We need some form of process that recognises the suffering of many, the injustice many feel in Northern Ireland. I don’t think you can pull a veil over that.”
During the interview Mr Donaldson was also asked about the Northern Ireland Protocol, with the DUP leader arguing the region is missing economic “opportunities” as a result of the protocol’s “unnecessary barriers”.
“Much of our supply chain comes from Great Britain, whether you are a consumer buying goods in the supermarket or a business relying on component parts for your manufacturing process,” he added.
“I believe there are opportunities going forward but we can't get to those opportunities because of these unnecessary barriers.
“We need to fix that supply chain problem, we need to restore Northern Ireland's place within the UK, both the market and constitutionally.
“If we can do that then, yes, we will see the opportunities that will flow, providing we can find practical solutions on trade with the EU."