There simply isn’t enough evidence to convict someone of crimes from the Troubles because we can’t use forensics on decommissioned weapons or victims remains. Why not? Because the Good Friday Agreement said we can’t. To get the weapons decommissioned, we agreed as a nation to not scour them for fingerprints and put the criminals who used them behind bars. We, as a nation, agreed this. We got a vote. I’m guessing that most people didn’t read the detail but you can be absolutely sure that the politicians in the Executive, those who are loudly condemning this concept, were well aware of the implications.
As a result we’re going to have to rely on confessions and witness testimonials which, without hard evidence, are going to be challenged. And who’s going to come up and confess now if they haven’t for the last forty years?
The NI Attorney General thinks we should draw a line under crimes from the Troubles and stop chasing the unachievable. Politicians are, for the most part up in arms because their own hard line support comes from people whose way of thinking is tainted with winning a victory over “themmuns”. The problem being that there are “themmuns” on both sides and no-one is confessing or giving witness, not even some of the politicians who would be “in the know”. The very same politicians who are opposed to stopping investigations.
He’s not suggesting that we forget or forgive. This is a blunt instrument to create debate about how we deal with the past. Of course this is timely, with the Haass Talks. But someone needed to say it. It needed to be put on the table so it could set a marker on how we debate the concepts.
Thirty years ago a crime was committed again my family which we still deal with. It changed our lives irrevocably. I have come to terms with the fact that the police will never convict someone for that crime. They have their suspicions (which cover just about everyone from the milkman to the recent Canadian astronaut) but they will never, ever convict anyone. And that’s because there isn’t the evidence and, quite simply, there isn’t the time and resource.
People who say that you can’t put a price on justice are liars. We put a price on these things all the time. Politicians who court victims groups and promise justice are liars. They’re using the pain of victims as a political tool.
We need to do more for victims, this is plain. But there are better ways of dealing with this. Appropriate memorials of all victims. The young who did not grow up with the Troubles as a constant backdrop deserve better than we are getting now. How are we going to build a future when our eyes are fixated on the past?
Apart from my family history, there are apparently 3000 unsolved murders from the “Troubles”. Even if you allocated 3000 police investigators to those crimes you would not results. There is no evidence, there is nothing to investigate.
This is not about airbrushing over the pain of victims and their families. This is about not letting a desire for revenge and false promises of hope become how we paint our future.