Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Piecemeal approach to past is not working

By Suzanne Breen

The decision to prosecute the former British soldier who shot dead Aidan McAnespie will further intensify the debate over legacy prosecutions.

Whatever the arguments over the failure to restore power-sharing, the past is far more ferociously debated in Northern Ireland than the present.

The failure to establish a single mechanism with a mandate to examine the past systematically and comprehensively increases emotions. We are muddling our way through via a piecemeal approach.

But what should be beyond dispute is that the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service must go where the evidence leads.

That principle must be applied whether it is former paramilitaries or security force members potentially facing charges. There should be no ifs, buts or maybes.

Bereaved families on all sides have the right to justice.

There must be no hierarchy of victims. The grief and pain of the McAnespies is no different to those of the relatives of police officers and soldiers killed by the IRA.

Unfortunately, double standards all too often prevail on both sides of the political divide.

Republicans want the Bloody Sunday soldiers charged but complain when police go knocking at the door of former IRA members.

Those who cheer on the prosecution of 80-year-old republican Ivor Bell are strongly against that of 76-year-old former soldier Dennis Hutchings.

We need to adopt a consistent approach. Either alleged combatants on all sides should be prosecuted for historic crimes if the evidence exists or none should be. Justice isn't a pick and mix.

The hard facts on legacy cases must also be acknowledged.

The Prime Minister last month claimed that the only people being investigated for past offences were former security force members.

Victims' commissioner Judith Thompson said this claim was "completely in contravention of the facts" and the PSNI's own statistics also clearly contradict it.

Belfast Telegraph

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