Belfast Telegraph

Deal with the past, urges McGrory

The head of Northern Ireland's prosecution service has questioned if politicians have the will to tackle the fallout from the decades of violence in the region.

There is a long-running debate on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, with some victims calling for prosecutions in unsolved murders, and others demanding information on how and why their loved ones were killed.

Barra McGrory was a high profile defence lawyer before recently being appointed director of public prosecutions.

In a speech to leading human rights watchdog the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), he said the question of dealing with Northern Ireland's past should be a priority.

"I think there is an imperative in the public interest that society finds a mechanism to deal with the past," he said.

"Whether that be simply giving more resources to the investigators to get on with the investigating, and then consequentially the prosecution service to prosecute cases if the evidence emerges, or whether or not society is ready for a solution to the past outside of the prosecutorial system, is a matter that I think this society needs to confront.

"In my view, the sooner it confronts it the better, but confront it it needs to."

Mr McGrory has said his decision to become a lawyer was heavily influenced by his late father Paddy McGrory, who acted in a series of high profile cases across the political divide but who rose to international prominence as legal representative for the families of three unarmed IRA members shot dead by security forces in Gibraltar in 1988.

He said that during his time as a defence lawyer, he rarely had reason to consider how the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decided whether or not to proceed with prosecutions.

But Mr McGrory said his role in public inquiries had stirred a greater interest in the issue. He added: "I think, perhaps even it would be safe to say that my representation of the (sectarian murder victim Robert) Hamill family was one of the reasons why I perhaps took an interest in this job, in that, for the first time as a lawyer I had to confront the difficulties faced by victims of a crime and how they related to the prosecution and how the prosecution related to them. And that brought home to me the importance of the role."

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