Ruth Dudley Edwards: When looking at the debate over the past Secretary of State, please ignore bad guys
A new book offers a moral solution to the legacy issue that is bedevilling negotiations, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
Dear Secretary of State, You have been given the thankless job of trying to restore the Executive by squaring circles and reconciling irreconcilables - all the time under intense political and media pressure to ignore hostages to the future in the interests of a quick fix in the present.
The aggro over the Irish Language Act has been bad, but at least it was an issue where you have a straightforward choice.
You can betray the British taxpayer by squandering millions to appease Sinn Fein, who will pocket all your concessions, demand more, and start instructing its army of lawyers to find loopholes in the Act to its financial and political advantage.
Or you can do the right thing.
Even worse is the legacy issue, because it seems less clear-cut. Though really, it isn't. Fundamentally, it's about morality.
What would make sense for you is to cut through the tons of rubbish generated by the parasitic legacy industry and read the excellent advice from the Malone House Group, which its leading light, Belfast UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon, describes as a "mixture of liberals, civil libertarians, unionists and non-unionists who value freedom and human rights - the right to life in particular".
That last bit is, of course, a clue that Sinn Fein is not involved, since apologists for IRA terrorism are interested only in the right to life of their supporters.
Mr Dudgeon, as you may know, is a hero in the field of human rights, having won the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland through the European Court of Human Rights in 1983 with no help from most of those who today call themselves "progressives".
Yesterday I read Legacy: What To Do About The Past in Northern Ireland, the short book councillor Dudgeon, who never shirks the hard questions, has edited mainly from the contributions at the conference on legacy legislation he organised in Belfast on March 3, 2018.
I'm not alone in having been bewildered and uneasy about the one-sided debate on addressing the past and the seeming spinelessness of the British Government and many unionists in the face of the ruthless republican war of attrition that looked like producing a compromise which would have been, as councillor Dudgeon says, "over-complex, unworkable and unjust".
Sinn Fein's cynical but successful attempt to exploit human rights and the legacy issue as part of its cynical rewriting of history through telling downright lies to ignorant or timid audiences would have been well-rewarded, and greedy and/or republican lawyers would have been uncorking the Bollinger.
In recent times the party has been insisting that "the British state was the major protagonist in the conflict", although republican terrorists were responsible for almost 60% of killings and the British state, as it struggled to prevent a civil war, or only 10%.
Although the state was extraordinarily restrained, terrorists and their apologists have smeared the security forces so cynically and effectively that the view that there was widespread collusion with loyalist murderers - which defies all the evidence - has become an article of faith with innumerable useful idiots in academia, the law, the media, politics, "progressive" circles and Irish public opinion, and is, as Ben Lowry points out, "an immense scandal".
As Professor Arthur Aughey says, we are at a stage "of moral inversion: where terrorists have become victims; where those who enforced the law are now held to be in debt to those who did not, and where dealing with the past has come to mean underwriting a narrative of subversion".
In other words, many influential people have forgotten who the bad guys were. To refresh your memory, they were the paramilitaries that tortured and murdered the good people.
When it comes to the Troubles, to repeat the BBC mantra that "the truth lies in the middle" shows you are stupid, ignorant or immoral. Courtesy of several distinguished contributors, Secretary of State, this book gives you all the essential information about the legacy morass, along with a morality-based analysis that will clear your mind and a range of realistic suggestions that offer simplicity, workability and justice.
There are more important priorities than restoring the Executive.
Refusing to sell out the innocent is the big one.
Yours, in hope,
Ruth Dudley Edwards