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'Mixed feelings' about the end of Northern Ireland's Historical Enquiries Team

The PSNI body was set up to investigate killings from the 1970s to 1990s.

Dave Cox, former head of HET, with Phillip James, director of Intelligence and Investigations at HET.
Dave Cox, former head of HET, with Phillip James, director of Intelligence and Investigations at HET.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE PSNI HAS said it will not renew the contracts of 300 agency workers after 31 December this year.

The cuts spell the end for the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which was set up to investigate a number of deaths that occurred during the Troubles.

The police force in Northern Ireland said the decision was a budgetary one as it had to reduce its spend by £50 million.

“Today’s news will have an impact on a large number of people,” admitted Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Finlay.

It’s not a pleasant situation to be in. While this is a difficult decision, it is a necessary one. We simply cannot engage the services of people that we cannot afford.

He added that the PSNI “understands the importance of dealing with the past and that a huge deal of hurt and pain continues for the many people affected by our troubled history”.

However, he argued that policing did not offer the solution.

“As a police service, we will continue to meet our legislative responsibilities with regards to the past. This includes investigations where there is new and compelling evidence; as well as our responsibilities in responding to the requirements of coronial inquests.”

A “much smaller Legacy Investigations Branch” will be established in place of the HET.

The news will be greeted with “mixed feelings”, according to SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly.

“Whilst the HET had lost the confidence of victims, and many victims’ groups, it was the only show in town. Coupled with the financial pressures now faced by the Office of the Police Ombudsman, we are very concerned that dealing with the past now has no champion,” she explained.

“Victims have been let down and promises made under the Good Friday Agreement to victims and victims’ groups have not been honoured. The protagonists of the conflict – the terror organisations and the British Government – must give a fulsome and honest account of their wrong doings.”

The HET was the subject of a critical inspection report recently, which led to its director David Cox resigning from the post.

Read: Who won the war in Northern Ireland? The British, so says a new BBC documentary

More: About 500 British troops are to train on this Derry mountain and nationalists aren’t happy

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