The following Platform Piece from Doug Beattie MC MLA appeaed in the Newsletter on Friday 09 February 2018.
The Ulster Unionist Party’s Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie MC, has highlighted flaws in the proposed legacy bill, which mean that it lacks the mechanisms or capacity to look at the murders of military, police or state forces to see if the investigations conducted into those murders were compliant under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Doug Beattie MC MLA said:
“On the 14th July 1984, an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) patrol commanded by Lance Corporal David Kerrigan moved along the road close to the border with the Irish Republic having left Castlederg earlier that morning. A large explosion ripped through the patrol; sucking the air out of the lungs of those in its immediate path. It threw four of the patrol into the air, leaving one soldier dead and another fighting for their life.
“Private Robert Kerrigan ran back to attend to the most seriously injured - passing his seriously wounded brother David on the way - he did what he was trained to do and headed to the most seriously wounded. Holding the hand of his sister - 20-year-old Corporal Heather Kerrigan - he gently reassured her she would be ok while they waited for a helicopter to recover both dead and wounded.
“Heather Kerrigan - although unarmed - was according to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) a legitimate target. She did not survive.
“Also killed in that explosion was UDR Private Norman McKinley. Several months earlier he and Heather had both attended the wedding of Lance Corporal Thomas Loughlin who married Heather’s sister Elma. Now, barely a few months later, the groom, the best man and the bridesmaid were all dead, murdered by the IRA along with another guest who had attended the wedding, Private Greg Elliott, who was shot outside his home earlier that year.
“These facts seem so incredible they should be the stuff of fiction, but this was the tragic reality of life on the border for the local people – particularly those who were members of the security forces and their families. Soldiers, policemen and members of the public were routinely butchered by republican terrorists engaged in a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing of the Protestant population as the IRA made a concerted effort to make the area ungovernable.
“The Kerrigan family finally received an Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report into the murder of Heather in November 2010. It did nothing to deliver any measure of justice or closure. The report did not examine all open source reporting, intelligence briefings and the movements of known IRA members operating in the area. It was a flawed report and the authorities know it was flawed as they have openly admitted they do not know if they considered all the available evidence.
“However, a HET report is about all the Kerrigan family are likely to receive when the new legacy bodies, proposed under the Stormont House Agreement, are set up.
“Although the new proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) has been directed to reinvestigate every killing by the military, police or state forces it will not reinvestigate killings perpetrated by terrorists where a HET report has been issued regardless if is accurate or not.
“In fact, as things stand, the Kerrigan family does not even have the right to request a new investigation into the death of Heather who was one of dozens of people – mainly security force personnel – targeted by the IRA in the Castlederg area throughout the Troubles, but with a particular ferocity in the mid-1980s and early 90s. None of these murders have resulted in any convictions.
“The proposed legacy bill does not have the mechanisms or capacity to look at the murders of military, police or state forces to see if the investigations conducted into those murders were compliant under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Kerrigans are not alone - there are multiple cases where there is reason to believe the State has failed under Article 2 - the right to life - to protect those that served the State. Be that through failure of equipment, training or intelligence.
“It is time that the families of soldiers, policemen, prison officers and others murdered during the troubles began to understand that the state will not fight for their rights; and the loyalty they showed when they stood up against terrorism is not being reciprocated. If it is ok for the terrorists to ask for an Article 2 compliant investigation, then it should be ok for our security forces to ask for similar. These families should now be seeking a judicial review into the circumstances surrounding the death of their loved ones – did the state do enough to protect them, was the investigation Article 2 compliant, was the HET report they received accurate or indeed factual.
“In the meantime we need balance in dealing with legacy issues not this one sided system that will leave all victims with more questions than answers. As Sinn Fein call for equality then let there be equality in Legacy Investigations. If the aim is to reinvestigate every killing by state forces, then we must reinvestigate every killing of state forces.”