One step forward, one step back. The British Prime Minister this week lamented that only elderly British soldiers and members of the ‘security’ forces were being investigated for their actions forty and more years ago. Karen Bradley, the British secretary of state for NEN backed her up.
That’s the backward step, or as we political commentators call it, the bloody lie.
On the good news side, it appears that a statute of limitations is going to be binned. Karen Bradley told us:
“At Stormont House, there wasn’t a situation where a statute of limitations was agreed because my experience from talking to all the parties is there is no support for a Northern Ireland-only statute of limitations which would apply across all offences and that is something that people don’t want to see.”
The very fact that a statute of limitations should have been considered, and received support from unionist politicians, shows you how brazenly cock-eyed the consideration of the past here is. You can see where it comes from, of course. It comes from the contention that the IRA were the instruments of chaos and suffering in our community and that the British soldiers were the courageous forces of…yes, security.
I don’t think – in fact I know that I’ve never heard a unionist politician explain why violence here suddenly erupted among young nationalist and republican people. A surge involving thousands of volunteers joined the IRA, even though they knew that doing so offered them a high chance of imprisonment if they were lucky and death if they weren’t.
So no explanation for the psychopathic IRA and a free pass for British soldiers who gunned down innocent people in broad daylight and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries to kill dozens more.
Still, let’s be glad that British soldiers along with everyone else will be held accountable for their actions. That said, I still don’t think there’s a sliver of a chance that any elderly British soldier, trembling or not, dragged from a retirement home or the local pub, will see the inside of a cell. You didn’t need a jury or evidence to incarcerate hundreds of uppity fenians and you don’t need legislation to keep British soldiers, at the time of their crimes or now, out of prison.
It’s called the British system of justice.