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Unfair and unworkable, the HIU must be binned - Beattie

The following Platform by Doug Beattie MC MLA appeared in the Newsletter on Friday 17 January 2020.

"As the dust settles on the General Election and the ‘New Decade New Approach’ deal between the UK and Republic of Ireland Governments, three things are now clear. 

Firstly, the election has created cross community parliamentary support for the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) with both the DUP and SDLP, joined by the Alliance Party inside the House of Commons being supportive of this unbalanced, unfair and unworkable legacy investigatory model. 

Their support will of course be supplemented by the voices of Sinn Fein standing outside Westminster on College Green, frothing at the mouth over the prospect that police officers and soldiers will be subject to investigation, whilst at the same time expressing outrage at the thought of any terrorist suspect being placed under the same scrutiny. 

Secondly, the Queens speech - which outlines the Government’s policies for the next parliament - was clear that the Stormont House Agreement would be delivered as soon as possible. This includes legacy mechanisms such as the HIU. 

Thirdly, the ‘New Decade New Approach’ deal contains a pledge from the UK Government to - within 100 days – ‘publish and introduce legislation in the UK Parliament to implement the Stormont House Agreement, to address Northern Ireland legacy issues.’   

I expect that the sweetener to this legislation will be a buy off that soldiers involved in killings in Northern Ireland will not face reinvestigation unless there is new compelling evidence. 

This may be all well and good for those who served in the Army and subject to the ’Army Act 1955’ - which was replaced by the ’Armed Forces Act 2006’ - but it may not apply to the Ulster Defence Regiment who were formed through the ‘Ulster Defence Regiment Act’ and were not completely subject to the ’Army Act 1955’.

Neither would this sweetener stop investigations of former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who will continue to face both investigation and prosecution, not least via the new charge of ‘non-criminal police misconduct.’ Unless of course they avail of the protection that will be afforded to terrorists, who will seek to apply case law and universal human rights to claim equivalence, and avoid prosecution by virtue of a de facto amnesty.  

The Ulster Unionist Party believes in the rule of law and that no amnesties should be conferred on any group of individuals.  

There should be no equivalence between the lawful forces of the state operating under civil law, military law, the Laws of Armed Conflict (LoAC) and Rules of Engagement (RoE), and terrorists who operated entirely outside both domestic and international law.

We have consistently said that the HIU must be scrapped and the many thousands of voices of victims and survivors who do not support the HIU must be heard. The opinions of the Police Federation NI and the numerous retired police officers associations must also be given their place in any Westminster debate and not be drowned out by those who want them silenced in a bid to ease their conscience for supporting the HIU.

Under the ‘New Decade New Approach’ the Government is content to provide hundreds of millions of pounds for the creation of the HIU, yet the new Justice Minister is stating publicly that she does not have the money to pay the police officers we already have. Surely it would make more sense for the money now promised to the HIU to be given to the PSNI to ensure it is properly resourced? 

As far as the ‘New Decade New Approach’ deal is concerned, we believe the British Government is playing a very dangerous game in terms of legacy. It is making promises at Westminster that conflict directly with legacy provisions in the Stormont House Agreement, which it has promised to address within 100 days. 

These very serious issues cannot be wished away. The Government will very soon face a choice between doing the right thing by veterans and former police officers, and pandering to those who wish to rewrite history and paint the British State and its police and soldiers as the villains of the Troubles.

The Ulster Unionist Party is very clear. We do not support the creation of the HIU and on creating any kind of equivalence between state forces and terrorists through amnesties. Local parties here can no longer hide from this question to secure votes, because with the Westminster election over, they now have those votes. It is now time for all sides to give honest answers."

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