Belfast Telegraph

Hyde Park civil case can give some solace

Editor's Viewpoint

It is right that the families of the four soldiers killed in the 1982 Hyde Park attack in London should be granted legal aid to take a civil case against one of the alleged bombers.

A criminal case against John Downey collapsed in 2014 when it was revealed that he had mistakenly received one of the controversial 'on-the-run' letters, which guaranteed he would not face arrest or prosecution for IRA crimes.

What the new development means is that the families can pursue Downey for financial compensation for their loss.

But even if a judge decides he was responsible for the bombing in some way, he cannot be sent to prison or be given a criminal conviction.

And it is highly unlikely that the families would ever receive any compensation.

Relatives of 12 of the 29 people killed in the Omagh bombing won a civil case against four suspects and were awarded £1.6m, but never received any money.

What those bereaved by the Hyde Park bombing potentially can gain is a greater knowledge of why their loved ones died and why those soldiers were targeted.

They will also gain the satisfaction of knowing that they did everything possible to get some sort of justice for those who died, or the 31 who were injured, when every other judicial avenue was closed.

It is the understandable expectation of everyone in a democratic society that justice will be delivered to them when they are grievously wronged.

There may be legitimate reasons, such as lack of evidence or botched investigations, why that does not happen on occasion. But it must be sickening for these bereaved families that they are denied the opportunity to see a suspect stand trial in a criminal court because of a secret, sordid deal between the Government and former terrorists.

Just as it is sickening for the thousands of bereaved people in Northern Ireland who are rapidly giving up all hope of ever gaining justice or even knowledge of how and why their loved ones died and who was responsible.

To a large extent the peace we all now enjoy was built on the backs of the bereaved of the Troubles. The conflict ended because terrorists grew tired of their terror.

Yet the bereaved have been failed by society in the two decades since the guns and bombs largely fell silent.

They have been left with a toxic legacy and a burning sense of injustice, because too many people want to keep their squalid secrets.

Belfast Telegraph

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