Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

We know things that could undermine Northern Ireland peace process, say retired police officers

Former US diplomat Richard Haass is chairing talks on dealing with contentious parades, flags and other issues in Northern Ireland
Former US diplomat Richard Haass is chairing talks on dealing with contentious parades, flags and other issues in Northern Ireland

Retired police officers have warned they could be forced to reveal information which would undermine the peace process during any truth commission into Northern Ireland's past.

The warning from The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers' Association (NIRPOA) came in a 64-page submission to the Haass Commission for dealing with the past.

The submission makes it clear that the body represents officers who have been involved in what was known as the "shoot to kill" policy, a term they reject, and it is also known to represent many retired Special Branch officers.

Yesterday, Dr Haass returned to Belfast for another round of talks about flags, parading and the Troubles' legacy.

He insisted that an end-of-year deadline for political talks to resolve the divisive issues in Northern Ireland is "doable and desirable".

The document from the NIRPOA, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, states: "Our association does not support the concept of a 'truth commission' as the circumstances in which such tools have previously been used have been completely different.

"Nor do we have any confidence that anyone other than our members would actually tell the truth. Some of the truths which our members might reveal may not be considered to be helpful to the political or 'peace' process" the document states.

This is understood to be a reference to potential embarrassment to leading politicians, in Sinn Fein and other parties, if the intelligence records are opened. This, some of the officers believe, could destabilise the Executive.

The document calls for a reduction in the number of public inquiries but makes one exception. It calls for Troubles-era inquests into deaths caused by the security forces to be rolled into a single "review of all the relevant cases, taken as a whole".

This would provide "fully-funded independent and individual legal advice for any former members of the security forces who may be required to give evidence".

It estimates that, if we hold individual inquests, the backlog would take 20 years to clear and warns that many police officers who would be required to give evidence are old and frail.

It adds that many officers who were involved in alleged shoot to kill incidents were part of a few highly trained units and such incidents could be best tackled through a single process.

The submission says that any officer found guilty of wrongdoing should be prosecuted and rejects any notion of an amnesty, either of paramilitaries or members of the security forces who may be prosecuted. It adds: "Our association holds no brief for any police officer, serving or retired, who may have committed criminal offences, whether in relation to the performance of his or her duty or otherwise."

There are signs of anger and frustration with the present system of inquests inquiries which, NIRPOA argues, "facilitate, often at public expense, a continual campaign of baseless denigration of the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, including very many of our members".

It also attacks the Historical Enquiries Team and the Police Ombudsman for having allegedly employed some "staff who are poorly equipped for their work in terms of training and experience and leaders who have frequently demonstrated flawed judgment, resulting in injustice for many of our members".

It states: "In relation to the past, our principle concern is that there will be no attempt to rewrite history in a way which seeks to imply some sort of moral equivalence between the police (and other elements of the security forces) and the terrorists.

"In relation to the future, our principle concern is that our members will be able to live out their lives in dignity and privacy, with appropriate care being provided for those with physical or mental problems which are attributable to their public service."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife Galleries

More

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz