Restoring our faith in Troubles probes
After criticism of the former Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson and the recent scathing report into how the Historical Enquiries Team took a softly, softly approach to questioning soldiers about their role in killings in Northern Ireland, yesterday's report by the new Police Ombudsman into a horrific bombing in Londonderry goes some way towards restoring faith in the complex task of dealing with the legacy of past violence.
The report by Dr Michael Maguire, the new Police Ombudsman, does not make comfortable reading for police. He found that the RUC in 1988 did nothing to warn locals about a booby-trap bomb in a flat even though officers had prior knowledge.
Three local people were killed when they triggered the device planted by the IRA. Shockingly some former police officers refused to co-operate with the Ombudsman in his investigation into the murders, although a senior PSNI officer has apologised to all the families involved. Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the deaths lies with the IRA and police, given the climate of the time, were naturally fearful that they were being lured into a trap, although nothing excuses their failure to alert local people of the potential danger.
What this investigation by Dr Maguire and his team shows is that a rigorous independent examination of the facts without fear or favour, can produce confidence in the outcome. The family who brought the case to his attention are thankful for the thoroughness of his investigation. They now know that the deaths could have been avoided, but accept that the IRA are the main culprits in this horrific episode.
They probably realise that there is little chance of bringing those who planted the bomb to justice, but that, often, is not the primary reason why people want unsolved killings investigated. Just knowing all the circumstances surrounding a death can be enough to lay to rest most of the ghosts of the past. What they expect above all is that their cases will be examined with the same rigor as this one and that must be the aim of all those involved in delving into the dark days of the Troubles.