Ex police chief: The peace process has ‘destroyed’ prospects of justice for Troubles victims

Alan McQuillan, who was assistant constable of the RUC and the PSNI, and later head of the Assets Recovery Agency
Alan McQuillan, who was assistant constable of the RUC and the PSNI, and later head of the Assets Recovery Agency

Decisions made in the peace process have “destroyed” the ability to deliver for victims, one of Northern Ireland’s most experienced policemen of the Troubles says today.

Writing in the News Letter, Alan McQuillan says that his police forces — the RUC and PSNI — spent decades trying to uphold the rule of law.

Finding a mechanism to deal with the past, the former assistant chief constable says, is a key step in building a shared future. But the proposed legacy structures have an impossible task, in terms of funding and the shortage of experienced investigators, and will probably end up focusing on the security forces.

Writing in our Stop The Legacy Scandal series of essays (see below), Mr McQuillan — who later became head of the Assets Recovery Agency — lists concessions that have been given to terror groups, such as “the government’s agreement with terrorist groups to destroy all information on weapons decommissioned and prevent forensic tests” on them and “legislation on the disappeared which prohibits collection of forensic evidence or disclosure of anything that might indicate what happened to them before they were murdered”.

He refers also to the prospect of coming “political pressure, not least from the two governments, not to pursue those whose arrest might ‘destabilise the peace process’” and “the assurances in no prosecution letters” already issued to republicans by the government.

Mr McQuillan then writes: “I fear that many of the decisions made in earlier stages of the peace process have utterly undermined, indeed destroyed, our real ability to deliver for victims.”

He says that police and army who did wrong must be held to account but predicts legacy “will continue to slide into a one-sided process that focuses on those who tried to prevent the violence, rather than those who murdered”.

Mr McQuillan says: “As for the budget – 650 investigators will cost at least £26m ... £40m a year might be needed”.

• Mr McQuilan’s essay is in Saturday’s print edition and is now online in this section: click here