There are many killings that would bear closer scrutiny. Some would argue that a line has to be drawn under a period of conflict and that everyone should move on.
From the British army’s viewpoint it is unfair to identify soldiers and bring them before the courts to recall events of decades ago. They were employed to combat terrorism, and in that capacity, may have opened fire on suspected attackers believing their own lives were in danger.
If you are a bereaved friend or relative of a slain civilian, those decades have not diluted the need for an answer to the questions how and why did that person have to die? Whether there will ever be a satisfactory answer is a moot point.
The ‘shoot to kill policy’ in Northern Ireland was investigated by the Stalker Enquiry. His efforts were thwarted by a lack of co-operation from the RUC and Special Branch. John Stalker was eventually suspended after a smear campaign and faced crippling legal costs to defend himself. Public donations were raised to support a man who is widely respected for his courage in the face of corruption and those actively perverting the course of justice.
Some people advocate a truth and reconciliation commission in Northern Ireland whereby those giving evidence may be granted immunity from prosecution. It could be argued that the only way that the whole truth can be told about people ‘disappeared’, unlawfully killed or caught in the crossfire is by offering such immunity. Some say that the events are too raw, the suffering too great or that it is too early for a commission that would allow the perpetrators to walk away scot-free.
Some British ex-military argue that they are being treated unfairly in historic enquiries. Their actions have a paper trail, their service records and the Military Police enquiries can be re-examined in perpetuity. Whereas their enemy’s actions, no matter how horrific, will rarely have witness statements, and supergrass trials collapsed under legal challenges.
Others contend that servants of the crown should only operate within the law, and that any criminal actions should be fully investigated and punished .
During the Troubles the state turned a blind eye to the criminal actions of those fighting terrorism. A few scapegoats won’t bring peace and reconciliation, but might be the price justice demands for the victims. Those on all sides who orchestrated the darkest deeds are unlikely to have the spotlight shined on them or face prosecution.
Young squaddies, police constables and paramilitaries were mostly pawns in a game that had no winners.