Legacy killings in North must be dealt with, says PSNI chief

George Hamilton and Nuala O’Loan call for Historical Investigations Unit to be set up

DUP leader Arlene Foster and PSNI chief constable George Hamilton at the unveiling of a memorial to victims of the Enniskillen bombing 30 years ago. Photograph: Justin Kernoghan/Photopress

DUP leader Arlene Foster and PSNI chief constable George Hamilton at the unveiling of a memorial to victims of the Enniskillen bombing 30 years ago. Photograph: Justin Kernoghan/Photopress

 

Urgent action is needed to address Troubles-related killings and get the proposed Historical Investigations Unit up and running, PSNI chief constable George Hamilton and the North’s former police ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan have said.

Mr Hamilton and Baroness O’Loan expressed frustration over the weekend that proposals made three years ago to address legacy killings have still not been enacted due to the Stormont political deadlock.

A plan for a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) contained in the December 2014 Stormont House Agreement has not yet been implemented.

In an open letter to “all elected representatives with responsibility for policing in Northern Ireland”, Mr Hamilton said the right place for any legacy investigation was the Historical Investigations Unit.

He issued his letter to the deadlocked politicians in the context of a court instruction that he conduct inquiries into the notorious Glennane Gang which was allegedly responsible for up to 120 killings, largely during the 1970s.

The gang was comprised of Ulster Volunteer Force members, RUC officers and Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers, and was responsible for incidents such as the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings, the 1975 Miami Showband massacre and the 1976 killings of six members of the Reavey and O’Dowd families in south Armagh – murders that the IRA used as an excuse for the shooting dead of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill in Co Armagh.

‘Impossible position’

Mr Hamilton said that he will appeal the court ruling and found himself in an “impossible position” over legacy killings.

“I believe that the right place for any legacy investigation is the Historical Investigations Unit. The failure to make progress on the Historical Investigations Unit over the last three years has come at both a financial cost and a cost to confidence in policing. And that cost will continue to increase the longer that the ongoing delay continues,” he said in his letter.

“I have already had to transfer detectives from working on current terrorist and child protection investigations to deal with disclosure of documents in legacy cases. Millions of pounds that could be spent on protecting communities across Northern Ireland are being spent on defending a succession of legal challenges in the High Court.”

Baroness O’Loan said the Glennane families were entitled to a human rights investigation. She called on Northern secretary James Brokenshire to press ahead with the creation of the HIU in the absence of a return to a powersharing at Stormont. She accepted that the PSNI could not itself carry out such an investigation.

“We definitely need the HIU. The secretary of state has to move on this and has to get things going because we have no sign that our politicians are going to return to an Executive and be capable of doing this,” she told RTÉ radio.

“The British government have a major responsibility. This happened when they were in charge. It happened in a situation in which agents acting for the RUC and PSNI were engaged in serious crime and nothing was done about it. Therefore the state has the responsibility,” she added.

Mr Brokenshire has committed to conducting a public consultation on how to deal with legacy matters, but it is yet to happen.