Some 38 years after the events in question, victims of the Bloody Sunday violence will finally be able to move on. There will be further steps to take in their healing process but at least their state of limbo is now at an end.
There has already been much debate about the appropriate way for Northern Ireland, as a region, to move on, so what should be the principles which govern that?
In my opinion, it is vital that our justice system should now take its rightful place as an institution of supremacy which all Northern Irish citizens can take ownership of. Lord Saville has reached a view that crimes have been committed by former servicemen. The Government has asked the Prosecution Service to consider whether charges should be brought. If there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, such prosecutions must take place.
Servicemen who gave evidence, at the Saville enquiry, were granted immunity from prosecution on the basis of their evidence. That means that only evidence from others can be used by the Prosecuting authorities to convict them. It may be that the evidence falls short of what is required for a successful prosecution in some cases.
It has been suggested that because terrorists were given amnesty under the Good Friday agreement, that a similar amnesty should be given to these servicemen. I disagree. However, once there is a conviction, it would then be appropriate, acting within the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, to review the sentences after consultation with the victims and their families. The P & J Department could then make an arrangement for special parole in appropriate cases.
Last night on ‘Spotlight’ I saw the almost naked bigotry of Gregory Campbell, responding to the report. It did not surprise me on one level but I still felt appalled by his failure to show any empathy, let alone sympathy for victims. It serves as a reminder of how much work there is to be done to move Northern Ireland away from non-sectarian politics.