The Police Federation has called for the government’s “imbalanced and unfair” legacy proposals for Northern Ireland to be scrapped and rewritten.
Mark Lindsay, chairman of the federation, said plans for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles are “not achievable” and called on the Northern Ireland Office to go back to the drawing board.
His scathing assessment comes after DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the News Letter earlier this week that the government was likely to make “significant changes” to its original plans in response to the 17,000-plus responses to its legacy consultation.
Rejecting the plans in their entirety, Mr Lindsay emphatically reinforced that the federation is totally opposed to a process which attempts to equate terrorists with police officers.
And he stated that the consultation document has an “unjustified focus” on police, given that terrorists were responsible for 90% of all deaths during the Troubles.
“The secret is to find something that treats everybody with the same level of respect”, Mr Lindsay told the News Letter.
“We are not looking for police officers to be treated any better or differently than anyone else, we just don’t want them to be scapegoated for offences that were carried out by terrorist groups.”
The government’s consultation paper, published last May, outlines a number of proposals – including plans for a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to look into the massive backlog of unsolved murders.
“The federation doesn’t believe the HIU is achievable in terms of the case load, the timeframe or the budget,” Mr Lindsay added,
“It is actually setting families up for more disappointment by giving them hope of justice when there is no achievable outcome.
“I think the government needs to start again, as what has been proposed will not resolve the past. It needs to be totally re-written.”
A UK government spokesman said it plans to publish the findings of its consultations, together with the next steps, “shortly”.
He added: “The Government believes that the 2014 Stormont House Agreement we agreed with the main political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish government still represents the best opportunity to address many of the challenges we currently face.
“The proposed institutions have the potential to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors, for veterans and for others affected by the Troubles.”