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Government Government

Reject attempts to legitimise terrorism in Northern Ireland

Last updated: 03:13pm 8 December 2019

The immense contribution of the security forces during the troubles should never be forgotten. We will reject any attempts to rewrite history which seek to justify or legitimise terrorism.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.34

Our verdict

In 1998, the ‘Belfast agreement’ established a democratically elected assembly to govern Northern Ireland. This is usually regarded as the conclusion of the so-called ‘Troubles‘, a conflict which saw both civilians and members of the security forces killed over almost three decades.  Since 1998, alongside condemnation of acts of terror during the Troubles, there has been scrutiny of the actions of security forces – most notably in the ‘Bloody Sunday Inquiry‘ from 1998-2010 – with some arguing for the prosecution of soldiers for unlawful acts.

This policy promises to “reject attempts to rewrite history” in relation to the Troubles, drawing a line between the actions of security services and unjustifiable, illegitimate acts of terror.

Arising from the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, so called ‘Troubles legacy cases‘ concern investigations by the Police Service Northern Ireland into killings during that period. Under this government, six former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland were facing prosecution. Towards the end of her time as Prime Minister, Theresa May was accused of going against the spirit of this policy pledge by failing to extend proposed new protections against prosecution to cover those soldiers.

In the end, only one of those cases reached court, a man known anonymously as Soldier F.  His case has been adjourned until January 2020.

In November 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to alter the law to protect those who served in Northern Ireland, something human rights groups, including Amnesty International, immediately warned against.

It is difficult to judge a policy which promises to reject “attempts to rewrite history”, because the terms are so vague. The mention of remembering the contribution of the security forces leads us to interpret this as a pledge to take the side of services personnel in the long-running dispute over potential prosecutions. Theresa May was accused of failing to do that. Since becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has made pronouncements on this policy but has taken no action.

Our verdict is that this is ‘not started’, although we acknowledge this is a particularly thorny issue and others are likely to have different opinions.

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