Northern Ireland news

Analysis: Downey civil case highlights legacy inequality

John Downey pictured at Omagh Court after being extradited to Northern Ireland. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker.

THE judgment in a civil case taken against John Downey may give some degree of closure to the families of those who lost loved ones in the Hyde Park attack, but it doesn't address the wider issue of legacy.

The High Court in London ruled yesterday that Downey was an "active participant" in the IRA bombing at Hyde Park in 1982.

It paves the way for a substantial damages claim to be made against him by families of the four soldiers from the Household Cavalry who died in the attack.

Relatives initially asked for help through crowdfunding after being refused legal aid five times, but it was revealed in February last year that they had been granted public funding.

However, this is not automatically available to other families but is instead granted on a case by case basis.

This ad-hoc approach to the past means a small number of families are waiting for criminal prosecutions, others on fresh inquests or civil cases while some cry out for truth and the majority are abandoned with no means of redress at all.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne this week called on the politicians currently involved in round table talks to deal with the issue of legacy which is damaging to current policing both in terms of finance and public confidence in the service.

"As part of the upcoming discussions, it is imperative that an agreement is reached on the ongoing policing issue of legacy and dealing with the past," he said.

The past continues to pollute our future, continues to damage victims and families who feel abandoned by the process or lack of it.

Downey, is currently charged with the murders of two UDR soldiers in Enniskillen in 1972.

The Tory government has vowed to bring an end to future investigations into British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

The legacy issue, while costly, is a huge millstone around the neck of the state who would prefer their national security files remain closed.

Ongoing criminal cases against high profile republicans may well be used as leverage to secure an statute of limitations keeping the door to the truth firmly closed.

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