Belfast Telegraph

Brokenshire playing a dangerous game

Editor's Viewpoint

The Secretary of State James Brokenshire has created further controversy around an already contentious subject by claiming that the current investigations into a number of Troubles killings are focusing disproportionately on those involving State forces.

It is an unusual move and by doing so, he has opened himself up to allegations that he is taking sides. He has also put at risk the impartiality with which Secretaries of State are expected to deal with Northern Ireland affairs.

Certainly the timing of his latest comments is open to question, by intervening publicly on this issue on the morning after making headlines as the first Northern Ireland Secretary to attend a GAA game.

Writing in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph about the current PSNI legacy investigations, he claims that the "current focus is disproportionately on those who worked for the State - former members of the Armed forces and the RUC, the vast majority of whom served in Northern Ireland with great courage, professionalism and distinction."

His remarks also appear to set Mr Brokenshire at odds with the Northern Ireland Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, who went public to state that any suggestion that he had chosen to give priority to Troubles investigations involving State cases was "simply not correct".

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, has also made it clear that these allegations insulted him personally, as well as his legal colleagues.

Mr Brokenshire's claims have predictably produced a strong reaction from local politicians on both sides of a greatly divisive issue, at a time when feelings are already running high.

Few would argue with the Secretary of State's view that the current system is not working, and we would hope that he is not being too optimistic when he claims that "with political will, an agreement is within reach to deal with this important and sensitive issue".

After the election, a new deal on the past, with all its implications, will feature high on the agenda as the parties get down to talks.

There is little doubt that the scene is being set for those discussions and we can only hope that Mr Brokenshire's own comments prior to the election do not make his job even more onerous in brokering a political agreement when contact begins.

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