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Sir Trevor’s words will strike a chord

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Sir Trevor McDonald

Sir Trevor McDonald

Sir Trevor McDonald

Veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald has reported on many major events, but a spell covering the Troubles as a young man has left an indelible mark on his psyche. He doesn’t pretend that his experiences equate to those who were bereaved or injured by terrorists but admits he can never get them out of his mind.

The fact that the violence has had such a lasting impact on a journalist of his stature and professionalism should be taken on board by local politicians as an indicator of what thousands of their fellow citizens continue to feel due to the inability of the power-sharing administration to deal with the legacy of the past.

Every potential solution has failed to date due to inherent flaws in the system suggested or in manufactured partisan controversies.

The latest has been the decision not to prosecute soldiers for alleged crimes they committed. Those crimes dated back to near the beginning of the Troubles and it is clear that at the time they were ineffectively investigated.

However, the passage of nearly 50 years means there will always be evidential problems to overcome.

Witnesses will have died, records will have been lost and proper legal procedures were not adhered to, all of which makes convictions at this remove very dubious indeed.

In any case, anyone now convicted of terrorist offences which took place between 1973 and 1998 would only serve two years — not the justice that many bereaved families would want but the best they can hope for.

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The most likely outcome of any re-examination of legacy cases would be to find out why certain people were targeted, who was responsible and who was suspected of being involved.

Two previous attempts at re-examining past cases had a simple flaw: in order to avoid any claims of cherry-picking cases they were simply examined in chronological order, meaning all the problems highlighted above came into play.

A more practical — and possibly rewarding — approach would be re-examine cases beginning in 1998 and working backwards year on year. There should be less legal problems and more potential witnesses, even if those cases were committed at least 23 years ago.

That would be one way of addressing the problem of unsuccessful prosecutions.

Sir Trevor says his experience remain like a stain on his clothes, it never leaves him. Sadly, we have failed thousands of others who feel that way even more acutely.


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