Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Results of consultation on how to deal with legacy of Troubles still leave us with a Gordian knot to unravel

One of the most contentious issues arising from the Troubles is how to deal with the victims of violence, and this controversy is likely to continue with the publication of a Government consultation on dealing with the legacy of the past
One of the most contentious issues arising from the Troubles is how to deal with the victims of violence, and this controversy is likely to continue with the publication of a Government consultation on dealing with the legacy of the past

Editor's Viewpoint

One of the most contentious issues arising from the Troubles is how to deal with the victims of violence, and this controversy is likely to continue with the publication of a Government consultation on dealing with the legacy of the past.

The majority opinion expressed in 17,500 responses rejected the idea of an amnesty for veterans.

It should be noted, however, that the consultation was self-selecting and it involved people who wanted to make their views known.

Therefore, the results do not necessarily reflect the views of the wider population. That stated, it does not negate the results of the consultation process, and it is clear the Gordian knot still needs to be untied if we are to make any progress.

The findings, which reveal a firm rejection of a statute of limitations, suggest how highly people value justice and are seeking it.

While this is understandable on a human level, it could put obstacles in the way of a complex search to find out what really happened, and the part played individually and collectively by those caught up in the Troubles.

This is regrettable, but nevertheless true. So, as a society we must ask ourselves: are we better served by lawyers than historians? The jury is out on this one, but it would seem at present that jurists have the greater claim - judging at least by the results of this survey.

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Perhaps a good way to begin the unravelling process would be for a clear decision on the most fundamental question. Namely, is it truth or justice we seek?

The point must also be stressed that these are not always mutually exclusive.

There are other contentious issues to be settled, and not least of these is to find common agreement about what constitutes a victim.

There is also the important factor that truth recovery relies on the honest and earnest participation of all parties, which could prove less straightforward than it seems.

And there is the crucial issue of whether or not it really profits anyone if there are men in their 70s or 80s standing in the dock facing charges.

Another stark question to be faced is this: does it really profit anyone if elderly men go to jail for deeds committed so many years ago?

In reality, we know now that a majority of people responding to the Government's consultation are opposed to a statute of limitations.

But it appears that we are little or no further on when it comes to untying the hardened knot binding this most complex of issues.

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