Since 1998 successive governments have failed to implement an effective strategy for the past.
The most comprehensive attempt to deal with legacy was by the Consultative Group on the Past headed up by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley, which delivered its report in May 2008.
It failed following controversy over a proposal to give £12,000 to the families of every victim of the Troubles.
The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) was set up in September 2005 by PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde to investigate the 3,269 unsolved murders during the Troubles. While families initially welcomed the HET, many lost confidence in it and it was wound up in September 2014.
After many false starts there seemed to be political agreement on a way forward in 2014 when the Stormont House Agreement was reached following weeks of talks between the five main parties and the British and Irish Governments.
It committed to a number of new initiatives around legacy, including a Historical Investigations Unit to examine unsolved murders.
An Independent Commission on Information Retrieval was also agreed. It would give families who wanted to prioritise truth over judicial justice access to information. Limited immunity from prosecution would be available to those who engaged with the commission.
A failure to implement the agreement has been the source of contention within the Assembly. However, it was still considered as the appropriate way forward.
Then in March last year — without consultation, and as the world was coming to grips with the Covid pandemic — Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced the Government was moving away from the Stormont House deal to a new legacy mechanism with “information recovery and reconciliation as the overarching goal”.
Commitments given to backbenchers by Boris Johnson when he was lobbying for support for his Tory leadership bid were said to have included an end to any criminal investigations of former soldiers.
Johnny Mercer MP was key to selling the plans to backbenchers and veterans’ groups. He resigned a ministerial post in March, claiming the commitments to end prosecutions were not being acted on fast enough.
The statute of limitations proposed would apply across the board and include former paramilitaries.
In May the case against two soldiers charged with the murder of Official IRA leader Joe McCann was dropped. The judge ruled statements made by the two were inadmissible.
With the collapse of the Soldier F and Soldier B trial, it seems unlikely any further prosecutions involving the military will be recommended by the Public Prosecution Service.
It leaves in doubt the future of legacy and how it will be resolved going forward.