Cold cases 'a colossal drain on resources', says David Ford
Dealing with Northern Ireland's troubled past is proving a colossal drain on resources and must be tackled urgently, the Justice Minister has warned.
David Ford urged political leaders to get back into talks urgently to find a way forward.
Mr Ford backs the setting up of a specialist legacy unit, as set out by US diplomat Richard Haass following talks aimed at resolving flags, parades and the past. But he admitted such an approach to the past, focusing primarily on truth, would be unsatisfactory for some families intent on seeing justice done for their loved ones.
"We don't have a way which provides satisfaction to victims, yet we are currently spending a substantial amount of money from the budget today on dealing with the past," he said.
"That is putting pressure on the police, the Police Ombudsman's office, and the courts through legacy inquests."
There remain more than 3,000 unsolved Troubles killings and investigating legacy issues costs the PSNI alone £30m each year.
"There's no doubt there's a colossal drain on resources across the different agencies on dealing with the past," said Mr Ford.
"I think the Haass proposals on the past were pretty near what we need.
"The Historical Inquiries Unit would be a key way of seeking to ensure that where possible people get justice, recognising the reality that many people will not get justice 20 and 30 or 40 years on.
"It may be possible that some of them get some comfort from getting truth if they can't get justice.
"Those are the issues we should be exploring to meet the needs of victims the best we can.
"It will be an unsatisfactory process, but at the minute we have a very unsatisfactory process.
"At some stage the five Executive parties have to get together and resolve these issues."