Bradley’s legacy comments show Westminster is only really concerned about former soldiers

Posted By: March 09, 2019

Newton Emerson. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, March 9, 2019

A telling aspect of Karen Bradley’s comment in the Commons, claiming no Troubles security force killings were a crime, is that it was not an answer to the question she was asked.

The secretary of state was responding to DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly, who asked what mechanisms would be put in place to investigate unsolved terrorist murders.

Pengelly made no mention of the security forces. Bradley’s rush to absolve them of all wrongdoing, even appearing to describe murder as “dignified and appropriate”, blanked the DUP and terrorist victims as well. The secretary of state then initially refused to apologize – a stance defended by the attorney general Geoffrey Cox MP.

The blunt fact is that prosecuting former soldiers is completely unacceptable in Britain and this is Westminster’s only legacy concern. That points to a security force amnesty, which would require a general Troubles amnesty – unacceptable to unionism, which is why the DUP never suggests it.

Sinn Féin and a previous British government agreed such an amnesty in 2005 before the legislation was withdrawn under SDLP pressure. But the prospect of fresh Troubles prosecutions can only resurrect the idea. While a formal amnesty is a legal impossibility, something to the same effect is the only political possibility.