Belfast Telegraph

Police union rejects plans for legacy 'in their entirety'

PFNI chair Mark Lindsay
PFNI chair Mark Lindsay
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The body that represents rank-and-file PSNI officers has claimed the creation of a Historical Investigations Unit is an attempt to establish a "parallel police service".

The criticism is contained in the Police Federation for Northern Ireland's (PFNI) response to a consultation on proposed mechanisms designed to address the toxic legacy of the Troubles.

PFNI chair Mark Lindsay outlined his organisation's opposition to "attempts to equate terrorists with police officers" and called for the Government to scrap plans to legislate on legacy issues.

"The draft Bill is flawed," he said. "Assessed through tried and trusted justice principles, the PFNI rejects it in its entirety.

"This is lop-sided, one-sided and massively unfair. The words 'terrorist' and 'murder' do not appear in the Government's consultation, and that speaks to a lack of objectivity and imbalance."

Rejecting the Bill "in its entirely", he said: "Far from finding a way of dealing with the issue, it delivers false hope to victims, runs the risk of retraumatising many people and serves to 'weaponise' the past."

In its submission on Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past, the PFNI also set out its opposition to an Oral History Archive, which it said risks being a propaganda tool for people who refuse to assist criminal investigations.

The Orange Order also objected to the legacy plans, with a stark warning that the definition of a 'victim' cannot be applicable to terrorists.

It demanded special recognition for families of innocent victims whose loved ones' killers were released under the Good Friday Agreement.

In its formal submission, it said current proposals do not "sufficiently underpin" the principles of balance, proportionality and the truth.

Among its criticisms of the legacy plans, it stressed that the term 'victim' must "reflect and underpin the fact that terrorist victim-makers cannot be considered equitable to those they killed, maimed or left to grieve".

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionists also branded the Government's legacy proposals unacceptable.

Party leader Robin Swann said: "As we stated previously, how we deal with the past has been on the agenda of political talks since before the Haass process in late 2013 and it needs to be resolved in a manner that is - to quote from the general principles of the draft Bill - balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable.

"It is our opinion that the draft Bill which is being consulted on does not meet these tests, particularly the proposal to establish a Historical Investigations Unit. The proposals are unacceptable." Wave Trauma Centre's submission to the Government's legacy consultation said those operating the institutions should be properly trained in dealing with trauma. It also noted the exclusion of victims from the Republic and Britain from the remit of criminal reinvestigations.

Chief executive Sandra Peake said there was nothing proposed for those injured, bar an oral history archive.

"We feel that is unacceptable."

She raised the "grossly unfair" limited remit of the criminal reinvestigation Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).

"It must have a broader remit than simply Northern Ireland and those cases must be addressed in other areas rather than people being further excluded and marginalised."

She expressed concern about whether the HIU and Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR) could run concurrently, with families divided over which they want to use.

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