The Ulster Unionist Party has long been concerned that republicans are seeking to re-write history and produce a narrative of the Troubles whereby the State and its agents – the Police, the Army and the Intelligence services – are somehow portrayed as the ‘villains of the piece’, whilst the role of terrorists is downgraded to the point where their crimes are completely whitewashed.
Tens of thousands of brave men and women risked their lives to prevent Northern Ireland descending into civil war in the face of a vicious terrorist onslaught. They were mercilessly targeted on and off-duty, in their homes, in their work-places, driving buses, shopping with their families, working on family farms and businesses, even at places of worship.
Over 3,000 people lost their lives during the Troubles, 90% at the hands of terrorists, 10% as a result of the actions of State forces.
We must never forget that of that 10%, many were armed terrorists killed by the Police or Army as they attempted to commit serious criminal acts, including murder.
Soldiers and policemen are being dragged through the courts whilst those responsible for 90% of the deaths are able to avail of Royal Pardons and Letters of comfort, giving them a de facto amnesty.
Sinn Fein’s furious reaction to anyone highlighting the hypocrisy of its position in condemning the recent terrorist outrages in Manchester and London, given its refusal to condemn past IRA atrocities in the same cities, revealed that party’s duplicitous attitude to investigating the past.
When it comes to the actions of the Police, Army or Intelligence services, they want full disclosure, but when it comes to the actions of the IRA, we should all just move on and forget about it for the sake of ‘the peace process.’ They hide behind claims that the IRA has gone away. This simply has to stop. No other country in the world would stand for it, so why should we?
We have grave reservations about the creation of the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), a de facto international parallel police force charged with investigating the past.
In Northern Ireland we already have an effective and professional police service in the form of the PSNI. They undertake all modern day policing activities with highly advanced police techniques and procedures and work closely with other forces throughout the British Isles and beyond.
So why are we being led into a situation where an international police force, working alongside the PSNI but very separate from it, in the shape of the HIU is being established?
The HIU could be staffed by 350 investigators, with the investigators recruited and seconded by the Director of the HIU from throughout the UK and Ireland; but could also include those with relevant experience from abroad, including mainland Europe and as far afield as South Africa.
Surely we would be better served by allocating the additional resources which are to be devoted to the HIU, to the PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch?
I simply do not accept that there is any need for a parallel international police force operating alongside the PSNI to investigate UK citizens.
We have also been very disappointed by the lack of commitment demonstrated by the Irish Government in dealing with Legacy issues.
So far, the Irish Government`s commitments to disclosure and co-operation have been at best questionable and at worst could be perceived as being deliberately obstructive. If they want to build confidence, then this is not the way to do it.
We could however inject confidence by committing to establishing a pension for the innocent severely physically injured victims of the Troubles and finally addressing the definition of a victim. What we will not do, is permit the re-writing of history.