Dear Editor

Mr Drax in his column (March 8th) makes some apposite points, but omits even more at least as important.

He is right that the Londonderry "Bloody Sunday" soldiers have already "endured" two official enquiries and further police interviews. He omits that the same is true of the friends and relatives of the 14 unarmed civilians who were killed. They had the additional humiliation of the Widgery enquiry which they always knew, and is now generally accepted, to have been a "whitewash".

I agree with Mr Drax that the soldiers probably cannot have a fair trial, but his reason is wrong. It is not the length of time that has elapsed, but the fact that the bulk of the relevant evidence has now been in the public domain and available for comment. People have already made up their minds. This would not matter in some jurisdictions, such as the USA, but it matters - and rightly - here. The Ballymurphy case (1971: 11 civilians killed) has received less publicity and there might be a better chance of a fair trial.

Germany is still trying those accused of World War II crimes, even though their personal involvement was less than might be alleged against the Londonderry soldiers. While Mr Drax resists the equivalence of soldier and terrorist, there is a potential equivalence in that both are - or should be - subject to the law. In that sense we are all - or should be - equal.

Northern Ireland was not a war. The UK Government vigorously resisted, for solid legal reasons, attempts to so characterise it. The armed forces were in Northern Ireland to assist the police in their task of protecting the civilian population from criminal violence.

It would be good to find a way through these dilemmas that would leave all sides feeling that justice had been achieved. In South Africa the "Truth and Reconciliation" hearings were an imperfect but real attempt to address this problem, and allowed some kind of line to be drawn. Done properly, such hearings are not an easy option for those taking part

Given the bad faith now being shown by many - including the group to which Mr Drax belongs - towards the Belfast Treaty as we seek to leave the EU, the unsettled accounts from those earlier troubled years could haunt us for a long time to come. Drawing a line under a historical process does not just happen, but must be made to happen. Honesty and trust are essential.

Yours sincerely

Barry Tempest