Is marching Chelsea Pensioners into Police stations to question them for what they did on the streets of Northern Ireland going to give genuine peace to this much troubled place?
Many families still grieve, and the old sectarian divisions continue. But few desire to return to the dark days of bombs, snipers and knee-capping.
But there remains a desire for justice – and for some revenge. Some see this as the only way to permanent peace and normality.
Northern Ireland is a very small place. Even in the towns and villages with the greatest sectarian problems, everybody knows everybody else. Specifically, everybody knows the former “players” and who they killed.
But to open up the police files would be to stir up the embers. Nobody wants that.
Most old soldiers from The Troubles are not part of this, living out their retirements across “on the mainland”. Prosecuting them won’t upset any of the fragile balances that comprise Northern Ireland today.
It makes sense for the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland to avoid causing trouble at home by restricting “historical investigations” to cases involving only “the Brits” – as Republicans used to refer to soldiers brought in “from the mainland”. Todays Northern Ireland Director of Prosecutions once represented members of Sein Fein. Prosecuting old soldiers gets the Director of Prosecutions off the Chief Constable’s back, at a time when the IRA is doing just enough to keep up the pressure…
This is coupled with an apparent indifference of UK parliamentarians as a whole, to these sad little interview sessions of old soldiers.
Maybe there won’t be any actual prosecutions? But judging from previous DPP actions, historical cases have a much lower priority, so leave the innocent hung out to dry – often for years. This will affect veterans and their families very badly, irrespective of any outcomes.
All alleged crimes by soldiers were investigated at the time. Some were prosecuted and given long jail sentences.
It may be that some of these investigations of soldiers failed to prove crimes that they did in fact commit. But the same can be said of police investigations of terrorist crimes. Many former terrorists are free having committed murders and torture. Some have even received official amnesty certificates.
Justice means applying the law impartially. This focus on veterans is clearly not impartial.
Politically, seeking justice only from veterans may make sense. Veterans will not break the law in protest. They offer no threat to UK social cohesion.
But ignoring the rights of veterans for basic justice is immoral. The political reasons for this are equally immoral, and will not help Northern Ireland.
Plus it’s pathetically short sighted. We rely far more than most of us understand, on today’s serving soldiers, to keep our country safe.
Already they look over their shoulders for lawyers with writs. They should fear only the enemies at which the Nation directs them.