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  • Robin Horsfall

If a soldier killed my son...

If a soldier shot my son while he was walking home from school I would want to kill that soldier, if not him then someone or something associated with him - his country his regiment or his family perhaps. Alternatively, I could demand that the law investigate his actions and decide whether he had committed a crime. By trusting in the law I could gain some form of closure and deal with my loss.

If the law refused to conduct a meaningful investigation then I would without doubt return to my first options and I would join any group that offered me that opportunity. There would be no doubt in my mind that the law was not behaving impartially and that my son’s death meant nothing to the state. I would believe with justification that I had lost my civil rights and my equality. The law would no longer hold any legitimacy for me.

I would become an outlaw in the truest sense of the word and accept the possibility of death, capture and imprisonment. This is evident in many countries that have deprived minorities of their rights - where they have arrested and imprisoned suspects without trial. In all systems where the government have deprived the individual of their legal rights, the result has been an increase in violence.

The media reports each action as it occurs and given time the original sin is forgotten and only the most recent atrocity counts. Democratic leaders frightened of being regarded as weak increase security and oppress even more of their citizens. Communities become isolated and turn towards those who offer protection or revenge and thus a self-perpetuating cycle of violence begins.

Would I become and outlaw because of my political or religious beliefs? No! I would become an outlaw because I was not treated fairly by the laws of my own land.

After thirty years of bad politics in Northern Ireland an attempt to halt the violence was made by the British Government. They drew up a treaty known as the ‘Good Friday Agreement’. Those criminals who had been convicted of murder and other illegal acts were released from prison under license. Those who had not been convicted in court were still subject to investigation but many known criminals were told in writing (letters of comfort) that they were no longer under investigation.

British Army Veterans have protested about the continuing ‘Historical Investigations’ into the actions of soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Many veterans have made the claim that the prosecutions are ‘politically motivated’ and describe the actions of the law courts as ‘malicious’. Few people in Northern Ireland could regard themselves as impartial. The true objection of the veterans concerns ‘fairness and proportionality’ two terms regularly expressed by the government. These terms have no legal standing, they are concepts that mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean.

Soldiers don't start wars governments do. It is not 'fair' nor is it 'proportional' for the government that sent soldiers to war to punish them for making mistakes. It might be 'fair' to punish the government who sent them but of course all those people are dead. It was the poor politics of the British Government in the early 1970s that sent people into the ranks of the Provisional IRA. Although it is legal and correct to demand that criminals be brought to account, is it clearly unfair that convicted murderers are allowed to walk free while former soldiers are arrested? This is neither ‘fair’ nor ‘proportional’ so any claim that these terms are valid is a deception. The law is not about right and wrong it is about complex legal arguments by lawyers. The winner has the best argument regardless of morality - regardless of fairness!.

Members of Parliament have called for a statute of limitations to put an end to all investigations. That statute would of course include murderers who have not been caught on all sides. If this statute is put in place we would have to answer another question; - Is this fair now? To answer that I would have to return to my first paragraph and tell you how I feel about the murder of my son and ask myself. Can I set that loss aside in the name of peace? Can I save other sons and daughters by putting aside my desire for revenge?

Most decent human beings would try but there will always be a group who benefit from conflict, who control people with fear, who will never put down their guns. IRA/Sinn Fein encourage every peaceful soul in the UK to put down their defences for one purpose. That purpose is for the IRA and their representatives to rule Northern Ireland. They claim that soldiers shot their people. Frightened soldiers under pressure sometimes get it wrong but British soldiers didn't place bombs in bars and hotels, they didn't murder thousands. They tried to do their job and tried to defend the population. Those who got it wrong were not murderers if anything they were victims. I keep repeating Theresa May's words 'Fair and Proportional - Fair and Proportional'. To the Northern Ireland veterans ''Fair and Proportional' means betrayal and appeasement.

The IRA will not do what is fair or proportional - they will do whatever they must to achieve their aims - including coercion, murder and extortion. Towns situated on the north side of the UK /Eire border operate under the control of criminals with guns. The police turn a blind eye in the name of ‘Peace’. This is not freedom it is appeasement. Freedom is for those who are prepared to defend it and it does not come cheap. Appeasement in return for a temporary peace with thugs and criminals is the most expensive price any free nation can pay!

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