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'Is this the best use of £150m?': Ex-NI Secretaries of State say Troubles investigations should stop

The group says there needs to be a more ‘even-handed’ approach to investigations.

The aftermath of a bomb blast that killed 11 and injured 60 in Fermanagh in 1987.
The aftermath of a bomb blast that killed 11 and injured 60 in Fermanagh in 1987.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

FOUR FORMER SECRETARIES of State for Northern Ireland have said that £150m set aside for criminal investigations of Troubles violence should be given to victims instead.

Eight members of the British House of Lords, including Tom King, Peter Hain, Paul Murphy and John Reid, signed a letter in response to a British government consultation.

The paper, ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past‘, was launched by current Secretary of State Karen Bradley in May to give the public a chance to have their say on how historical violence should be addressed.

However, the group has said the small number of prosecutions brought by the Historical Investigations Unit means plans for new bodies to deal with the violence are “pointless”.

They have also called for cases to be treated in a more “even-handed manner”, claiming that prosecutions are currently being considered for former members of the British Army but not for paramilitaries.

“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,” the letter reads.

Support and compensation

“Their views clearly deserve the utmost respect. But experience suggests that it would be a mistake to expect that judicial outcome in any but a tiny percentage of the crimes that have not already been dealt with.

“Most of the cases were not easy to investigate immediately after they were committed and the passage of time – up to 50 years – has only made the chances of a successful outcome much less likely.”

The group say that while 1,615 cases relating to over 2,000 deaths were investigated, only 17 of these were referred to prosecutors and only three brought convictions for murder.

They argue that the 1,700 deaths that would be investigated by a new investigations unit would see a very small number of convictions, particularly as some of those involved would die as time passes.

Instead, they propose using the £150m earmarked for new legacy bodies to provide support and compensation for victims.

“It must be worth at least pausing to consider whether this is the best possible use of £150m,” the letter continues.

“In the light of what is so likely to be a largely frustrating outcome from further police investigations, we believe it may be a much more effective way of helping victims to use that money on those and perhaps other proposals for meeting the needs of victims.”

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