The Government’s core and shared objectives in addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past are to implement an effective investigation and information recovery process that will provide answers for families, deliver on our commitments to those who served in Northern Ireland and help society move forward.
Consensus is historically difficult to achieve in Northern Ireland but when it comes to dealing with the past I am sure that we can all agree that the current process is failing those who have suffered, so we need a new way of delivering justice, and soon. Does the Secretary of State agree that his Bill or any proposals he brings forward must not in any way weaken or undermine our commitment to international law?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I appreciate his support on a point that I have made consistently: the current system is failing everybody. That is why we need to bring forward proposals that work for the people of Northern Ireland, for the victims as well as those who served so admirably in Northern Ireland to protect life and country. I can assure him that we are absolutely determined that this will be article 2-compliant. It has to be for it to be effective for everybody.
The sacrifice made by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC, is one that I and many across Northern Ireland will never forget. Over 300 officers were killed and 9,000 injured at the hands, mainly, of the IRA. A recent report by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland laden with innuendo has caused great hurt among former RUC officers and families who lost loved ones. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the service and sacrifice of the RUC, the Ulster Defence Regiment and all those who donned a uniform are not besmirched under the auspices of addressing the legacy of the past?
Yes, absolutely. The hon. Lady makes a very important point. There are so many people—hundreds of thousands—across the RUC and the armed forces who put their own lives at risk to protect others, and there is a huge difference between those who went out every day to protect life and those who went out determined to destroy lives. There can never be a moral equivalence; we would never accept one. She is absolutely right.