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Legacy concerns still to be resolved - Beattie

The following Platform piece from Doug Beattie MLA appeared in the Newsletter on Monday 10 January.    

The Ulster Unionist Party has previously highlighted its concerns regarding Legacy arrangements and called on the Secretary of State to commence the consultation process as soon as possible.

We will be re-iterating our stance to the new Secretary of State, Karen Bradley following her appointment earlier this week after James Brokenshire stepped down on health grounds.   

We have already outlined at length our serous concerns about legacy inquests and also our view that any move to bring a Statute of Limitations is likely to result in a general amnesty, which will obviously include those who committed some of the worst human rights abuses in our recent history. For this reason, we cannot support a Statute of Limitations and we have called on the DUP leader Arlene Foster to ask her MPs to remove their names from the proposal that is currently making its way through Westminster.

This is not our only concern.

The case load and the structure of the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) should be causing alarm bells to ring for anyone concerned about justice.

Under the current proposals, every killing that took place involving State Forces will be reinvestigated; yet not every killing carried out by terrorists – whether republican or loyalist – be reinvestigated.

There will not even be a re-investigation of the cases involving murdered security forces who have had a flawed Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report.

On the other hand, former RUC officers could find themselves being arrested by this parallel police force even though they have previously been cleared by the Police Ombudsman.

The HIU will be a hybrid parallel police force operating in Northern Ireland. It can be made up of officers from throughout the UK but already it seems clear that it will not include former RUC officers or present serving PSNI officers lest its findings be subject to a judicial review, as is the case already with the investigation into STAKEKNIFE.

Excluding former RUC or PSNI Officers creates an air of suspicion that they cannot be impartial. This will present issues in respect to dissident republicans well into the future and simply cannot be allowed.

We are also concerned about the delivery of information and we call on the Irish Government to be clear and state they will not redact information prior to investigation. To do so could prevent criminal charges being brought against any possible perpetrator of murder and such a development would be extremely detrimental to the legacy process. The Irish Government should be subject to the same level of transparency as that expected of the British Government.

We also want to see a rethink on the proposed Independent Commission on Information Recovery (ICIR). To establish a structure that can implicate anyone without that individual having the ability to challenge the information used to do so, will give the ICIR the ability to be judge and jury over all information submitted to it. We have already seen what has happened with regard to the Police Ombudsman’s office in relation to the recent ruling over the Loughinisland report.

The ability to identify themes risks allowing vexatious and partial narratives to be promoted without fact - including collusion. As we have already seen Collusion is a term which is being used solely against State Forces and the UK Government where loyalist involvement is alleged. Less emotive terms are used for republican terrorist groups, the Garda, Irish Directorate of Intelligence and the Irish Government.

The Ulster Unionist Party wants a single agreed definition of the term collusion in respect to our troubled past.

It is fair that everyone has the ability to see what the Legacy Bill will contain and have an open and honest input. It is not fair that any party or any group has the ability to block the Legacy Bill because they do not like what it contains.

The Ulster Unionist Party will make robust representations to outline our concerns and shape the Bill but the fact remains that we were not the architects of the Legacy Bill - this was created by the Stormont House Agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein. It is up to them to promote it and address the issues that we and others have raised and will continue to raise.

Ulster Unionists