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Prosecution of Troubles murders 'should not be stopped'

By Suzanne Breen

Relatives of republican and loyalist murder victims have said Northern Ireland's former Director of Public Prosecutions was wrong to demand an end to prosecutions in Troubles-related murders.

Breege Quinn, whose son Paul was beaten to death by the IRA in a border farm in 2007, and Anne Morgan, whose brother Seamus was disappeared by the INLA in 1985, said the option of prosecutions should remain open.

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond jnr was killed by the Mount Vernon UVF in 1997, also said he was totally opposed to any suggestion that a line be drawn in the sand regarding past murders.

"I take issue with the whole idea of calling them legacy cases. These are not just historical issues, they are relevant to our community today. Paramilitaries unfortunately are still very much active," he said.

In an interview with the BBC last Friday, Mr McGrory said the majority of cases to be looked at by the new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) "would not end in successful convictions".

He said: "Time cannot be wound back, so the quality of the evidence will still be very poor.

"There will be few convictions and in respect of those convictions, people will not be serving sentences commensurate with what they have been convicted for.

"Is that really justice? Because justice suggests to me that there will be an efficient criminal process that will throw up convictions in a reasonable number of cases and that those convicted will serve sentences commensurate with the crime they have been convicted of committing."

Mrs Quinn said: "The opportunity to access justice is a fundamental human right that all victims must have. I would oppose any change to deny others that."

And Ms Morgan said: "I personally have no interest in seeing those who killed my brother arrested, charged and convicted.

"But many other victims don't feel like that and they have a right to prosecutions if the evidence exists."

Mr McCord said: "Barra McGrory couldn't be more wrong on this. Everybody has a right to justice."

The three victims were speaking at a conference at Queen's University yesterday held to hear victims' stories. Organiser Professor John Barry said: "There is great academic work carried out on this subject within this university but it is also very important that the voices of victims themselves are heard within our walls."

The panel also included Sunday Life journalist Ciaran Barnes and Sunday World Northern Editor Richard Sullivan.

Mr Barnes spoke for the first time about being told of a UDA threat against his life last month. He said he would not be intimidated from doing his job but that such threats were hard on his wife and family.

"I have had to move house in the past. I've had my name and phone number written on walls. I've had my car registration and address published online," he said.

Bangor community worker Aaron McMahon, who was beaten with hammers by the UDA in 2015, accused the PSNI of doing nothing to ensure his safety.

"The only protection for me has been from the media," he said. "The mantra from the police is 'Keep Communities Safe'. Well they didn't keep me safe."

Mr Sullivan said he had a "healthy disrespect for the political, security and justice establishment" and accused them all of letting down victims. He said any immunity for security force personnel would be wrong as members of state organisations must be subject to high levels of scrutiny and accountability.

Belfast Telegraph

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