Historical crimes in Northern Ireland


Sir, – Paul Johnston, the British ambassador to Ireland, writes of finding a discreet, inclusive and respectful way forward to achieve satisfactory outcomes for victims’ families (Letters, May 11th).

Few would disagree with these sentiments.

All this, however, needs to be seen however in the context of the Conservative manifesto pledge to end “ unfair trials” of veterans in Northern Ireland, and indeed his own comment on the criminal justice system being burdened by such trials. Does he really think, on a day when the 10 people killed by the British Army in Ballymurphy were found to be “innocent and unconnected to paramilitaries”, that their families would share that perspective?

That this issue was raised by the British prime minister in an election week in the UK, playing to a local English nationalist agenda, raises real doubts about the veracity of the British position here. A prime minister who “lies as he breathes “ ( Editorial, April 29th) can hardly be trusted with stewardship of such a sensitive issue. – Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The British ambassador writes in defence of the UK government’s intention, announced in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, to introduce legislation to halt any future prosecutions for killings carried out during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The problem for the UK authorities is that this is not just a political matter, but also a legal one. The right to life is guaranteed by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This imposes an obligation not just to preserve human life, but also to effectively investigate unlawful killings. As the Grand Chamber of the Court of Human Rights said in the case of Mocanu v Romania: “The general legal prohibition of arbitrary killing . . . by agents of the State would be ineffective in practice if there existed no procedure either for reviewing the lawfulness of the use of lethal force by State authorities, or for investigating arbitrary killings and allegations of ill-treatment of persons held by them”.

The court went on to stress that “in order to be effective, the investigation must be capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible”.

The UK is still fully signed up to the ECHR, which is not an EU treaty, and continues to apply post-Brexit. In the circumstances, there must be serious questions surrounding the legality of any such moratorium on criminal charges against those responsible for the deaths of the past. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.