Mark Thompson: Even if you think there is a legacy imbalance, then historical investigations unit is the logical next step

Mark Thompson, CEO of Relatives for Justice. Photo Declan Roughan / Presseye
Mark Thompson, CEO of Relatives for Justice. Photo Declan Roughan / Presseye

A narrative that addressing the legacy of the past benefits only one section of the community has emerged as a consistent theme in this newspaper.

This, in my opinion, is political and not always in the interests of families bereaved or those injured.

However, when this narrative, that has been carefully fostered, is examined it does not stack up.

There are 56 inquests into killings by loyalists, republicans and the State’s armed forces. Included in that figure are the killings of RUC officers and people from within the unionist/loyalist community.

I also understand that a number of killings of UDR/RIR soldiers by republicans may also come before the Attorney General for consideration to reopen fresh inquests. These are referred to as legacy inquests as they happened during the conflict.

In comparison to the vast numbers of unsolved killings this is a relatively small handful of cases yet crucially important not just morally and legally but more so for the bereaved families’ need to know; a feeling that all bereaved relatives will understand.

In December 2014 the five Executive political parties and both governments agreed mechanisms at Stormont House to address the past. Of the four agreed bodies the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), a body with full police powers conducting criminal investigations into killings, appeals most to families bereaved.

Many of the bereaved want a rigorous and robust investigation of all the evidence without favour concerning the killing of a loved one. Families want a process that they have trust and confidence in irrespective of religion or politics. It’s a basic human requirement and a human right.

Many families never had proper investigations and this is the very least they deserve.

Families feel a strong sense of duty to the memory of a loved one including a commitment to that deceased person, whether a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a daughter or a son, to ensure that their murder receives a thorough and impartial examination. The HIU, if implemented properly, can achieve this.

Without doubt the HIU will be tasked with handling the bulk of killings that occurred and this is precisely why all parties, including the DUP and UUP, agreed to the HIU.

Not implementing the HIU is failing families from right across the community and leaves those families that seek answers and who want no stone left unturned feeling somewhat isolated and somehow losing out precisely because of the skewed debate concerning opposition to legacy inquests.

Resolving this is a no brainer.

Even if we take the perception that there exists an imbalance on cases being examined then surely the logical step is to implement the HIU.

The stark reality is that this would immediately shift the investigative focus of the HIU with the majority of cases being examined resting on those who carried out the most killings.

Victims and survivors require a more unified voice for the common purpose of ensuring that the past is addressed for the greater number of people bereaved and injured irrespective of who killed them or who they were.

Victims and survivors also need to be heard beyond the politics that so often claims to represent them but instead fails them.

If you have been bereaved and have questions then examine the HIU proposals that were agreed.

If you require any support or information please feel free to contact groups you feel might assist. A full list of groups can be obtained from the Victims & Survivors Service (VSS).

• Mark Thompson is CEO of Relatives for Justice