NEWS LETTER

18

Danny Kinahan
Demonisation of security forces
is most painful issue for veterans
he Troubles conflict of the past
continues to be
as raw for many
veterans today
as when they served.
The lack of action over
legacy issues has let down
our veterans and society as a
whole. We must not pass on
the unresolved weight of the
past to future generations.
Since my appointment
as Veterans Commissioner,
I have travelled throughout
Northern Ireland listening
to veterans and hearing firsthand what they experienced
during military service.
Most of them are content
with their lives and are extremely proud of their service.
However the most painful issue for many, is the demonisation shown for all they did to
protect society.
Death threats and intimidation are still prevalent for
some, and as such the demonisation needs to cease, and
together we all need to ensure
it stops.
Finding a way to conclude
legacy issues is absolutely key
to allowing veterans to hold
their heads high and go about
their daily lives.
During the course of the
Troubles some
3,500 people lost
their lives. Of that
52% were civilians, 32% service
personnel (1,100
deaths) and 16%
were terrorists/
paramilitaries.
It is well documented that 90%
of these deaths
were caused by
the actions of terrorists, with 60%
caused by republicans and 30% by
loyalists.
Of these documented
deaths 360 cases of veterans
actions are currently being
investigated while we have
little sight of any of the 650
unresolved terrorist murders
in the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) caseload.
In terms of advocacy
there are strong legal teams
constantly chasing up cases
against state forces and yet we
have no similar body doing the

T

same for veterans. This sense
of imbalance and unfairness
is rightly a concern for our
veterans.
It has been intimated that
very few cases will reach prosecution. Coupled with this
assessment, the current PSNI
Chief Constable has stated
that to go through the LIB
caseload would take at least 20
years using current resources.
The recent command
paper, presented by the secretary of state for Northern
Ireland, in addressing the
legacy of Northern Ireland’s
past, states that the Historical
Enquiries Team had an annual
budget of £30 million and 100
staff — after 10 years work,
just three of the 1,615 cases it
reviewed resulted in successful convictions of murder.
Additionally, the decommissioning of terrorist weapons has excluded evidence
gathering capability against
those who committed acts of
terror.
The 1992 IRA bombing of
the forensic laboratories has
created further barriers to the
effective investigation of those
involved in terrorist acts.
This has added an additional level of imbalance
against those who can be prosecuted for acts of
active terrorism
and to some extent left veterans
as a soft target for
investigation for
doing their duty
under extremely
difficult circumstances.
For veterans
the lack of balance is further
amplified when
we consider the
365 royal pardons
(source: B. Telegraph, May 2 2014) and over
300 letters of comfort (source:
PSNI LIB) given to known terrorists and the hundreds of
convicted terrorists released
under the Belfast Agreement.
Add the fact that veterans
are 54 times more likely to
face prosecution in Northern
Ireland than Republican terrorists, (source: Matthew Jury,
McCue & Partners LLP, News
Letter, 5th May 2021) — the
feeling amongst veterans is a

‘Finding
a way to
conclude
legacy issues
is key to
allowing
veterans to
hold their
heads high’

Most veterans are extremely proud of their service in Northern Ireland but many of them continue to bear the scars of that time

distinct legal unfairness and
bias.
There are many veterans
who want justice for all the
harm that has been done to
them and their families, and
when you consider the scale of
horror and depravity of these
attacks, you can fully understand their position.
Many veterans continue to
bear the scars of service, often
carrying lifelong physical and
psychological health problems.
Of the many veterans with
whom I have spoken, none
of them wish for amnesty for
carrying out their unformed
duty under the most stressful
of circumstances. Nor do they
wish to ever be considered
equivalent to those who carried out acts of premeditated
murder and terror.
I want to see veterans
treated with the respect they
deserve as they stood against
terrorism and all its horrors,
and did so on behalf of all society in Northern Ireland.
The Stormont House
Agreement of December 2014
does not command the support of all the political parties
in Northern Ireland.
One aspect of the Stormont

House Agreement was information retrieval and we know
from the work Jon Boutcher
and his team is doing as part
of Operation Kenova (investigating the alleged activities of
the person known
as Stakeknife)
there is a greater
focus on families
of those affected,
with the overriding priority
to discover the
circumstances of
how and why people died.
This type of
process ensures
families are kept
to the fore in any
investigations.
Over 300,000
service personnel from the
mainland served in Northern
Ireland during Op Banner, and
they and their families need to
be listened to and have a voice
as well.
The UK government made
a commitment to deliver legislation that would bring an end
to repeat investigations of veterans who have already been
investigated and exonerated.
The publication of the UK
government’s Command pa-

per sets out a range of proposals on how future legislation
might be shaped and there is
now a period of time for engagement and I will continue
to talk and listen to veterans
to ensure their
views are represented in shaping any future
legislation.
The Irish
government
also has a responsibility to
fully engage,
including with
veterans, and
ensure it meets
its requirements
on dealing with
the legacy of the
past.
Other important issues
that veterans, and indeed, innocent victims have pressed
upon me, is the need for an
acknowledgement, from those
paramilitary groups (both republican and loyalist) involved
in the conflict that their actions were wrong and totally
unjustifiable.
There is also a view that the
continued glorification and
commemoration of terrorism
and individual terrorists only

‘The UK
government’s
command
paper sets
out proposals
and there is
now a period
of time for
engagement’

compounds the suffering of
victims and does nothing to
help in the healing process — I
call upon Sinn Fein and others to reflect on this and stop
retraumatising victims and
survivors by supporting/organising such events.
Further, changing the 2006
definition of a victim within
any proposed legislation, to
exclude perpetrators, would
sit well with innocent victims
of terror and would finally
right that wrong.
In conclusion, the system
that is currently in place is unsustainable, imbalanced and
does not serve the families of
victims, survivors and veterans well or fairly.
Now is a time of opportunity where all interested parties
can work together to find the
best possible solution, so that
the legacy of the past doesn’t
continue to be the legacy of future generations.
This will take courage, understanding, clarification and
indeed realism, but it needs to
happen.
l DannyKinahan,aformer
armyofficer,StormontMLA
and Westminster MP, is
Northern Ireland Veterans
Commissioner