Relatives' dismay as PSNI chief admits Enniskillen prosecutions look unlikely
The chief constable has conceded that criminal proceedings are "increasingly unlikely in a vast majority of unresolved cases" from the Troubles.
George Hamilton also told victims of the Enniskillen bombing it was unlikely those behind the IRA attack, which killed 11 people, would "end up in a court room."
Mr Hamilton admitted the PSNI has been "unable to secure the evidence required to take that horrible atrocity through the criminal justice system".
He made his comments at a seminar in Co Fermanagh hosted by the South East Fermanagh Foundation, a victims group.
"I'll not risk causing further pain by giving unrealistic expectations of what the justice system can deliver," said Mr Hamilton.
He explained that the bombing had been subject to various investigations and reviews and that there was "still some unfinished business around that."
"Some of that work continues, albeit I need to deal with expectations," Mr Hamilton added. "I'm not sure this is going to end up in a court room, in fact it would be unlikely. Accept my assurances that if and when new leads become available, they will be pursued."
With almost 1,000 other legacy cases, Mr Hamilton said he couldn't "put a timescale on the work for us getting to them", the Impartial Reporter reported. He added: "Please do not think that those who lost their lives in any of these terrorist attacks have been forgotten about by us, by me. I can assure you they haven't."
The chief constable also appealed to Stormont politicians to address the impasse in relation to the past. "It is important to point out that policing alone cannot sort out the issues of the past," he said. "Policing alone can not build the past towards a better, brighter future or one that resolves all the difficulties of the past. That is something only society can do."
He concluded that the PSNI's Legacy Investigations Branch was largely determined by circumstances outside his control. "We are driven by the law, not by a wishlist, not by who shouts the loudest," he explained.
Stephen Gault, who lost his father Samuel in the bomb, said Mr Hamilton's comments left him feeling "horrified." He also questioned the chief constable's claim that there may never be anyone prosecuted and hit out at the former Historic Enquiries Team (HET) for the way in which it handled the investigation.
"A report was never published by the HET in regards to their findings into the case and more worryingly by the HET's own admission the review into Enniskillen was the longest case that they were dealing with," Mr Gault said.
"The case was live with the HET for over nine years and it was only on the eve of the 25th anniversary that a potential new line of enquiry was passed onto the PSNI for investigating.
"The big question for me is, who is being protected from justice being served for the murder and bloodshed in Enniskillen?"
On Monday First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster told party members in Belfast that she would continue to "defend" victims of the Troubles.
"And under my leadership I will never support the rewriting of our past," she added.
"Those who terrorised our land and perpetrated the most evil of acts must not have the fear of justice lifted from them."