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Deal on legacy issues crucial or we're in big trouble: PSNI chief

By David Young, PA

Published 03/11/2016

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has warned politicians it would be a "huge mistake" to stall progress on new structures to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

He stressed the need for resolution as he addressed a seminar in Belfast marking the 15th anniversary of the formation of the force.

Proposed mechanisms to address the needs of victims, and an accompanying multi-million pound Government funding package, are stuck in the starting blocks due to a political wrangle linked to the potential non-disclosure of State papers on national security grounds. The package agreed by Stormont leaders and the UK and Irish governments, which includes a new investigations unit, a truth recovery mechanism, an oral history archive, and enhanced funding for Troubles-related inquests, will not become reality until the logjam is overcome.

The national security dispute is primarily between the UK Government and Sinn Fein.

However, the DUP is refusing to sign off on the funding boost for legacy inquests until all the other issues are finally sorted sorted out.

A number of Stormont Executive ministers, including Justice Minister Claire Sugden, were in the audience of the seminar at Queen's University as Mr Hamilton emphasised the need to find a way forward.

"Work continues on the Historical Investigations Unit and the other mechanisms for dealing with the past which were laid out in the Fresh Start Agreement," he said.

"So there are signs of optimism as we refocus to the future, but it will be a huge mistake - and I say this with Executive ministers present - it will be a huge mistake to stall progress on these proposals, a mistake that neither policing nor our society can afford."

Mr Hamilton said current public confidence ratings in the PSNI of over 80% would have been "unimaginable" during the Troubles.

However, he highlighted that there remained some communities where trust in policing "remains some way off".

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