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Victims' families betrayed again

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 18/08/2015

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton

In September last year, the Chief Constable, George Hamilton, pointed out the compelling rationale behind the need for a truth recovery mechanism to deal with the legacy of 3,000-plus deaths in Northern Ireland. He said the majority of killers were unlikely to ever face trial as memories of events have faded and witnesses and suspects may have died.

But, tellingly, he added that the hurt of the bereaved will not have faded with the passing of time, and that many families still have questions about the deaths of their loved ones that they want answered. Sadly, it appears that, yet again, those families will be let down.

Details of an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval obtained by this newspaper reveal a virtually toothless body which will not bring any closure to those relatives who want to know who killed their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons or daughters, or who ordered the murders.

The body will not have investigative powers or be able to compel witnesses. It will be able to seek information at the behest of family members, but it will not tell them who carried out the killings or who gave the organisation the information.

While accepting that this is not the definitive word on the new body but rather the thinking of the UK and Irish governments at this moment in time, it is difficult to see why any paramilitary group would want to engage with it. There would be no compulsion on them to do so, and any evidence which would be forthcoming would not be tested to evidential standard. Even if paramilitary groups decided to give information, at best they would probably cherrypick cases.

In such instances, the temptation would exist to blame deaths on members who were long dead and who could not refute the information given.

Dealing with the legacy of the past continues to be a festering wound in the side of the power-sharing administration at Stormont. If this sore is not lanced, there is a risk of hatred being passed down to more generations.

It flies in the face of human dignity that those bereaved in the Troubles - and many have already died - cannot be given basic information which would enable them to draw a line under the terrible wrongs that were done to them. We cannot keep failing to come up with what most people would regard as proper answers to fair questions from still-grieving people.

Belfast Telegraph

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