Unionist anger at McGuinness ‘veto’ on Troubles probe boss

Jim Allister criticised the 'pivotal role' given to Martin McGuinness in deciding the director of the HIU
Jim Allister criticised the 'pivotal role' given to Martin McGuinness in deciding the director of the HIU

It is “repulsive” that a self-confessed ex-IRA commander should have a veto over who investigates hundreds of murders by his former terrorist colleagues, an MLA has said.

Mr Allister added: “The IRA was the biggest killing machine throughout the terrorist campaign [of the Troubles], yet now it is proposed that one inextricably linked with that bloodthirsty campaign should determine who directs investigations into those murders.

“Some have already foolishly boasted of how good a deal the Stormont House Agreement represents for innocent victims!”

Under the bill, he said, the director of HIU will have full operational control of all investigations, and can decide “whether any particular criminal offence should be investigated”.

He will also choose who the other members of the HIU will be.

The NIO document, published in recent days by the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, confirms that the HIU director will be appointed by “the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, acting jointly, in consultation with the Department of Justice”, and that the appointment will be made “following a merit-based appointment process after a fair and open competition”.

The policy notes that the Commissioner for Public Appointments will oversee the appointment process as normal, it says.

The same policy document also states that HIU will be an “independent, investigative organisation”, it adds.

The document foreword states that “where evidence exists for a prosecution of any crime in relation to the Troubles, the law will take its course” and that the HIU “will have powers to refer cases to the Northern Ireland DPP for a decision on prosecution”.

Innocent Victims United has expressed concern that the bill will place much more accountability for the past on the UK than on the Republic of Ireland and paramilitaries.

The group has also said the bill does not have the full support of the community’s elected representatives; last week – amid talks – Sinn Fein, the UUP and SDLP all expressed reservations to the News Letter.