Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Peers' legacy input is food for thought

Editor's Viewpoint

The letter from eight members of the House of Lords urging the Secretary of State to give priority to compensating those bereaved by the Troubles over pursuing convictions sums up the dilemma of dealing with the past.

The eight, who include four former Secretaries of State with 10 years experience of life here, along with three others who have had other political input locally, and Lord Eames, who produced a previous blueprint for dealing with legacy issues, have constructed a logical case for their approach.

They point out previous investigations into more than 2,000 deaths resulted in only 17 referrals to the Public Prosecution Service and three prosecutions and convictions for murder.

By any stretch of the imagination, that is a paltry return on a huge effort and there is little reason to believe that a new investigations unit, whose work could take five years, will produce any better results.

The peers argue that the £150m could be better spent on attending to the needs of those bereaved and survivors.

It is a compelling argument, which effectively means drawing a line under the past.

However, to the credit of the eight, they accept that the views of the victims must be paramount in this consultation process addressing the legacy of the Troubles.

There is no holistic approach from the victims.

Some want investigations to continue no matter how slim the chances of justice; others want to know more about the deaths of their loved ones, and others accept that their chances of getting either justice or information recedes by the day.

The other problem this submission throws up is how do we define a victim. Lord Eames knows that it was this very issue that derailed the proposals he drew up with Denis Bradley. Their proposal to compensate the relatives of everyone who died in the Troubles, which inevitably included terrorists, caused their document to be mothballed due to hostile public reaction.

The DUP this week has called for a new UK definition of victims, showing the fault lines which will open if the Government suggests compensation over investigation.

The peers are on stronger ground in arguing there can be no amnesty for former soldiers if paramilitaries continue to be pursued, but accept all cases must be treated evenhandedly. They have opened up a worthwhile debate, but will it resolve anything?

Belfast Telegraph

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