NI Secretary urged to prioritise victims of the Troubles over historical probes

Four former Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland have said consideration should be given to prioritising compensation for victims of the Troubles in the North, over the criminal investigation into the perpetrators of the violence.

The group, including Tom King and Peter Hain, said their suggestion was based on the belief that any new historical investigation had little likelihood of success.

A recent British government paper of how to address the legacy of the past in the North, included a proposal for a new Historical Investigations Unit, which would examine hundreds of deaths during the Troubles.

In their response, eight senior members of the British House of Lords, including former Stormont Secretaries of State, Tom King, Peter Hain, Paul Murphy and John Reid, said they understood why many victims attach great importance to the prosecution and conviction of those responsible and said their views deserved the utmost respect.

But in a letter to the current Northern secretary, Karen Bradley,. the group, which also includes Chris Patten, who chaired the commission which established the PSNI, and the former Church of Ireland Primate, Robin Eames, said their view was that the priority was to resource victims and not investigations, which they believed, due to the passage of time and other factors, have little or no likelihood of success.

They said prioritising victims should be considered as the best possible use of the £150m the British government is offering.

The letter says only a small number of investigations into the past yield prosecutions, and claims that of the 1,615 cases the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) investigated, just three resulted in prosecutions.

"We understand why many victims and others attach great importance to the prosecution, conviction and sentencing of those responsible for the appalling loss they have suffered," they write.

"But experience suggests that it would be a mistake to expect judicial outcome in any but a tiny percentage of the crimes that have not already been dealt with."

Peter Hain said that while they were proposing a line be drawn under the past, they were not proposing an amnesty.

He added they would not oppose the pursuit of a case if significant new evidence emerged.

Instead, Mr Hain emphasised they wanted victim support to be resourced, not "costly investigations that on past evidence would not deliver justice for victims".

The past has been one of the sticking points between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin through several rounds of failed talks to agree the return of power-sharing at Stormont.

The pursuit of former soldiers has also sparked outrage among the veterans community, particularly following the arrest of pensioner Dennis Hutchings.

The 77-year-old from Cornwall is set to face trial for attempted murder over the fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham, 27, in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Prosecutors are also reportedly considering charging 18 British soldiers over involvement in the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry.

Peter Hain's letter on behalf of the group, said past cases must be treated in an "absolutely even-handed manner".

Read more news of Dublin on our site.
historical probes
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
3 views in november
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

EU and UK negotiators have agreed a text that deals with the Irish border, RTÉ News understands. The text was agreed at around 9pm last night and then transmitted to Downing Street. While two well-placed sources have confirmed that the text was "as stable as it can be", they say it would not be correct to say that the negotiations have "concluded". According to both sources, there will be one backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The ba...
The Cabinet will meet this morning to consider developments around the draft text of a Brexit withdrawal agreement. Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar put his colleagues on standby for this morning's meeting, which is due to be held at 9.30am. Mr Varadkar and the Tánaiste will update their Government colleagues on what has happened over the last 24 hours. It follows a meeting last night between Mr Varadkar, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Finance Pasch...
A number of events have taken place around the country and in Northern Ireland to mark the centenary of the ending of World War I. Locations where ceremonies have taken place include Belfast, Enniskillen, Cork, Limerick, Sligo, Kilkenny, Westmeath, Galway and Tipperary. In Cork city, Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Mick Finn laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on the Grand Parade. He was joined by relatives of those who died in WWI and members of the Cork branch of the...
The two men who were arrested in Athy, Co Kildare yesterday in the investigation into the murder of David Boland have been released without charge today. A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions as the investigation continues, said a garda spokesperson. David Boland, 34, was stabbed multiple times during an incident on Duke Street in Athy, in the early hours of Thursday 1 November. A total of four people have been arrested to date as...
Dublin City Council is set to spend €1.6 million on the removal of discarded chewing gum in public areas. The local authority is seeking tenders for a contract to remove gum from footpaths and pedestrianised zones throughout litter blackspots in its administrative area over the next three years. It expects to spend €1.6 million plus VAT on these services, according to tender documents. The huge cost of removing chewing gum from public areas comes despite r...
It's not the first incident that has caused delays in Dublin this morning. An Irish Rail service heading into Dublin faced a huge delay this morning after hitting a sheep. The 7.05am service from Sligo to Dublin's Connolly Station was left delayed for 45 minutes due to the incident. Passengers have been warned to expect some knock-on delays as a result. Irish Rail said: "07:05hrs Sligo/Connolly will be delayed up to 45mins arriving in Connolly due to the s...
Precarious work is causing hardship to workers and their families, and reinforcing inequality, insecurity and deprivation in the workforce, according to the latest research from the Think tank for Action on Social Change. The report, entitled "Precarious Work, Precarious Lives", notes that precarious work forces many to rely on social protection from the taxpayer to compensate for their irregular hours and income. It found 44% of Irish workers do not have...
A new study which looked at the lives of nine-year-olds shows poorer outcomes for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The Growing Up in Ireland research, carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute, shows an improvement in the families ability to make ends meet since 2013, but found that not all families benefitted from the economic up-turn. The research was carried out on group of nine-year-olds who spent many of their early year...
Ryanair and its CEO Michael O'Leary are being sued in New York by a shareholder accusing the airline of defrauding its investors, and inflating its share price by overstating its ability to manage its labour relations and keep costs down. Ryanair described the claims in the lawsuit as "false" and "doomed to fail" - and has pledged to defend itself fully against what it called "bogus ambulance-chaser" claims.  According to Reuters, it is not uncommon for sh...