Belfast Telegraph

The lack of justice for victims is a disgrace

Editor's Viewpoint

Those bereaved in the Troubles must be in despair this morning after hearing the Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire tell them that it could take 20 years before investigations into some of the deaths are completed.

He has written to 130 families this year saying that he cannot give any definite date for completion of his probe into the deaths of their loved ones.

He is being brutally honest. Lack of resources, the complexity of the cases and the fact that resources are likely to be further diminished mean, effectively, that for many families knowledge of how and why their loved ones died, never mind justice, will never come.

The hurt and grief of the families will continue to drip poisonously down the generations as they feel let down by a society which mouthed meaningless platitudes but did little to help them.

But should we be surprised? Hardly. The Troubles have been over for almost 20 years and yet little has been done to address the legacy of the past.

That inaction is shameful but then it was always likely to be the outcome.

After all some of those charged with upholding the law were complicit in some killings; some of those who may have had a political input into helping the bereaved were involved in or supportive of the terrorism which caused the majority of the deaths.

All the bodies set up to help victims, all the words offering comfort and the hope of some justice or truth about the deaths, are now regarded as nothing more than smoke and mirrors by those so grievously let down.

As Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson points out the solution to helping the victims is evident.

We need an Historical Investigation Unit, an Information Retrieval Unit and an Oral History Archive - all of which have been proposed - but is the political will there to implement those recommendations?

She says that the institutions could be established by a stroke of a pen at Westminster. They don't depend on a functioning Executive at Stormont. Why then the delay?

The victims have been used as a political football and that is a disgrace, playing on the trauma of people who suffered through no fault of their own.

It was bad enough to lose a loved one through violence, but to still await full acknowledgement of that pain and to gain some recompense - funding, truth, justice - is verging on criminal neglect.

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