Bloody Sunday disappointment another reminder of how the pursuit of Troubles truth and justice has been left behind by the Tory legacy act - The Irish News view

Compassion for victims means a better way must be found to address the legacy of the past

A mural commemorating the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry
A mural commemorating the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry (Brian Lawless/PA)

For more than half a century, the families of the 13 innocents who were killed in Derry by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday have endured endless challenges, obstacles and disappointments.

Now another has been added to the litany. The Public Prosecution Service said yesterday that it won’t prosecute 16 people for perjury in relation to allegations that they gave false evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. They include 15 former soldiers and one former alleged member of the Official IRA.

It’s another desperate blow to the families who have persevered for so long to honour the names of their loved ones. John Kelly, whose brother Michael was just 17 when he was shot dead on a day regarded as one of the worst episodes of the Troubles, went as far as to describe the PPS decision as “an affront to the rule of law”.

There are doubtless plausible reasons for the PPS to decide not to press ahead with a prosecution. Indeed, the PPS set out three, and accepted that its decision will be “disappointing to the victims and families involved”.

The families are considering their next step, with a judicial review of the PPS decision-making a possibility. Sadly, that may prove futile; the British government is utterly determined to stop Troubles legal cases in their tracks, and the arbitrary May 1 deadline imposed by its legacy act is now just days away.

That law was specifically designed from the outset to protect soldiers from being brought before the courts for Troubles-related offences. Along with the Brexit debacle, it carries the stench of the charlatan Boris Johnson. He told the House of Commons in July 2021 that the legislation would address what he described as “this problem” of soldiers facing “the threat of vexatious prosecutions well into their seventies and eighties and later”.

Emphasising how little he understands about this place, he added that his legacy act would allow “the province of Northern Ireland to draw a line under the Troubles, to enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward...”

That was just more self-serving nonsense from Johnson, as the events of just this week and last - from the latest Bloody Sunday decision and the Kingsmill inquest to the manoeuvrings around the Sean Brown case and the Francis Bradley and Fergal McCusker inquests - have vividly and painfully demonstrated.

The cruel reality is that what most of us are fortunate enough to call ‘the past’ is the today and tomorrow for far too many in our community.

Compassion, as well as the demands of truth and justice, mean we need to find a better way to reconcile the horrors of the past with the hopes of the future.