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Dealing with plight of Troubles victims 'key to political progress'

By Aine Fox

Published 01/02/2016

Murdered: Sgt Joseph Campbell
Murdered: Sgt Joseph Campbell

There will not be political progress in Northern Ireland until it is accepted that victims' issues must be dealt with in a transparent way, the son of a Catholic RUC officer shot dead 39 years ago said.

Sergeant Joseph Campbell's murder is one of more than 50 stalled inquests forming part of a review into the most highly-disputed legacy cases in a bid to assess why they have not been heard, in some instances almost 45 years after the event.

Sgt Campbell's son, also Joe, said the granting of an inquest into his father's killing is a "victory" for his family, and praised Lord Justice Weir for his comments during the two-week review when he posed serious questions to the Government about its resourcing of investigations into past murders.

Mr Campbell was speaking at a conference in London on the legacy of the Troubles, chaired by former Irish President Mary McAleese.

Relatives of those killed, including Michael O'Hare, whose 12-year-old sister Majella was shot by the Army, and Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon was killed in the IRA bombing of a fish shop on Belfast's Shankill Road, attended the Troubles, Tragedy And Trauma: Northern Ireland's Historic Legacy event.

Mrs McAleese said the pain felt by loved ones of those who died in the violence that gripped the country is still fresh. She said: "It tells us something about the shelf life of these stories, the shelf life of grief, and of sadness and of these people who have been what you might call, I believe, patiently impatient."

Sgt Campbell, a father-of-eight, was shot dead as he closed a police station in 1977.

A Police Ombudsman's report subsequently said the murder could have been prevented by senior RUC commanders, but said it did not believe there had been collusion.

His son, Joe Campbell, said: "In order that the political institutions in Northern Ireland can make progress, people need to come to an understanding that issues like ours have to be dealt with in the public eye."

Lord Justice Weir will now compile a report on the cases, which relate to almost 100 deaths, for the head of Northern Ireland's judiciary, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.

He is determining why they are still stuck in the coronial system and identifying a sequence for hearing them.

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