###The Edward M Kennedy Lecture at the Kennedy Summer School

Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here today and honoured to be asked to deliver the Edward M Kennedy Lecture. Those who have worked in and on Northern Ireland all know the contribution which he made to the work of peace, the energy and dedication to the cause of peace, the open door when we were in the US, the support for those who ploughed often lonely furrows as we tried to make a contribution to the making of the peace. He was a warm, welcoming, generous and good man, and it is right that we remember his contribution to our peace.

Truth and reconciliation are the foundations upon which trust can grow, and from trust can emerge a society which is truly democratic, in which the rule of law exists and is respected and real, in which there is peace. We have been seeking peace in Ireland north and south for centuries. We are probably most familiar now with the Troubles which beset Ireland, and particularly Northern Ireland, in the past decades. It is in that context that I have been asked to speak today.

Here in the Republic of Ireland some 116 people died during the Troubles. In the years since 1969 there have been over 3600 terrorist related murders in Northern Ireland. We have a population of 1.81 million. To put this into context for our American visitors, if those murders had occurred in the same proportion in the City of New York, there would have been, over the 38 years, some 36,000 murders. There have been some 50,000 injuries as a consequence of the security situation here over the thirty eight years. Were that level of injury to have been replicated in the City of New York, there would have been over 500,000 injuries.

Had New York City suffered a similar level of bereavement, injury and trauma, the number of those affected would have been in excess of 5 million.

The Victims Commission estimated that the conflict resulted in 500,000 ‘victims’ in Northern Ireland,it defines ‘victims’ as those who are directly affected by ‘bereavement’, ‘physical injury’ or ‘trauma’ as a result of the conflict. Had New York City suffered a similar level of bereavement, injury and trauma, the number of those affected would have been in excess of 5 million. This gives you some idea of the scale of the conflict which has been the object of attempts to secure a lasting peace which continued over decades.

Much has been achieved. We had ceasefires, disarmament, decommissioning, prisoner release, the establishment of the NI Assembly, the devolution of legislative power to that Assembly, most recently the devolution of power over matters of justice and policing, though it is not complete devolution. The UK has retained its control over matters affecting its national security. The past keeps coming up though. Just last week the question of whether there could be an inquest into one of the incidents of the Troubles, the death of eight IRA men in Loughgall in 1987, killed by the SAS while trying to blow up a police station has been raised again. Two civilians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time were also shot by the SAS. One of them, Anthony Hughes, died. His brother Oliver was seriously wounded The UK Government has announced that the decision as to whether there can be an inquest, will be made by the Advocate General, who is also the UK Attorney General. He is a Tory politician, Jeremy Wright MP. The NI Attorney General, John Larkin had requested the inquests after the European court of human rights in Strasbourg found the men’s rights had been violated.

There is an extent to which the Government’s fears in the Loughgall case, which have led to this action are reflective of so much that is part of our history. It is possible that in the Loughgall case the fear is that during an inquest the identities of those who provided the information which enabled the RUC and the SAS to mount their ambush of the IRA men, and SAS methodologies will be revealed. It is the tension between fear of the consequences of revealing the truth, and the needs of the families of those who died, and of society as a whole, which is at the heart of today’s debates.

If we cannot face the truth, can we secure that reconciliation?

In cases such as this, and there are many of them, the dilemmas faced by societies emerging from conflict are stark. As we look towards truth and reconciliation as the foundations for peace, we have to ask whether we can afford truth if we seek reconciliation; whether reconciliation which is not based on truth is truly reconciliation, or merely a papering over the cracks. If we cannot face the truth, can we secure that reconciliation which must be the basis of a sustainable peace? As we look at the history of our country, as we contemplate the pain and suffering of the bereaved of the Troubles, the agony of the families of the Disappeared, the ongoing activities of both republican and loyalist paramilitaries, and their effect on our capacity to function as a people, to attract inward investment and to consolidate the peace, the question must surely be, “Can we afford not to?”

As the great American poet Maya Angelou said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

So what is truth? One of the very clear issues is that some people fear truth. There is confusion and lack of understanding about what is entailed in truth and reconciliation. Often it seems to me that we do not know what is involved and what the cost is. It is important to distinguish them.

Truth for today’s purpose, I think is the articulation of that which can be established as fact. People have different understandings of what truth is - for example, if we think about some of the situations of the Troubles in which IRA men have died at the hands of the British security forces - such as the Shoot to Kill cases, there are those who would argue that those deaths occurred because the British had no option but to shoot the men dead. There are others who argue that there was no need to shoot them dead, even if they were involved in terrorist acts, that they should have been arrested and processed through the courts. What emerges as a consequence of scrupulous objective independent investigation can be evidenced when it is articulated, and hence can be described as the truth.

7116 people applied for amnesty in return for telling their story. Only 1176 got their amnesty.

This causes fear - fear, for example that if we investigate all these cases we will have to face some very difficult realities which may separate us still further. Conflict, on the scale on which we experienced it is always very messy. And so there are fears, expectations even, that what might emerge from some form of truth telling process, be it through investigation or through hearings such as those conducted by the South African Truth Commission, will be damaging, will contradict the received wisdom in each of the communities, will not be ‘the whole truth.” In the case of South Africa where 7116 people applied for amnesty in return for telling their story, only 1176 got their amnesty, even in those cases it is said that there were people who having been granted amnesty did not tell the whole story.

Yet there are so many people here who have suffered grievously during the Troubles, and who need to know what happened and why. The truth is never simple. We know that the security forces infiltrated the paramilitary organisations. We know that some of those who became agents of the state were allowed to continue to commit the most serious crimes, and that collusion was a fact of life in Northern Ireland. I have seen it in the case of republican paramilitaries, and also loyalists. I am currently engaged in monitoring a police investigation called Operation Stafford which emerged from one of my Police Ombudsman investigations where we identified a cohort of senior UVF men who were suspected, had even admitted a number of murders and were allowed to carry on, not subject to the law, committing endless serious crimes of murder, attempted murder, extortion, kidnapping, GBH, drug smuggling etc etc.

We know that both loyalist and republican paramilitaries were involved in serious crime affecting their own communities. Many of the IRA attacks caused the deaths of ordinary Catholic men, women and children The IRA abducted and murdered people whom they suspected to be informants, people like mother of ten Jean McConville, seized and taken away from her children, the youngest twins aged 6, and never seen again by them. They told the children that she had run away with a British soldier, and for nearly 30 years they denied any role in her death. Yet they finally admitted that they shot her dead, one lonely night by a beach in County Louth. It can be very hard for people to admit the truth, to acknowledge the truth, even to learn the truth, when it is a truth which they find so difficult to accept. So truth is not easy.

It needs trust and trust has been absent from our society

Reconciliation, I think is a process which looks outward and forward and which brings together elements which belong together, but which have been torn apart. In our Church sense we talk about reconciliation as being the process of acknowledgement of wrong doing, of repentance, of a commitment to make reparation and a desire never to be separated again, and of forgiveness. That process can apply to society. It needs trust and trust has been absent from our society, and from so many others which have been in conflict for decades. Reconciliation is about not letting the past dictate the future. It is about bringing together the goodness of all the disparate parts of our divided community and working on those foundations, rather than allowing the evil of the past to separate us in the future, as it has divided us in the past.

There is also in this agenda the concept of healing. I think it is a process which is personal and inward looking. It is of the soul and the mind and the body. Healing is the balm for the soul, the mending of the broken, the fusing of the shattered, the making whole of that which was torn and shattered. I do not believe that societies heal. I believe that they may be reconciled, but it is the wounds and pains of individuals which can be healed. And sometimes it is through truth that people are finally healed.

the unfinished business will continue to echo through our days

All these things must come together to create a functional society. If we do not allow truth, if we resist reconciliation, the trauma and anguish, the unfinished business will continue to echo through our days, until eventually we are forced to deal with them. And the suspicions and distrust which run through our society, reaching to the very highest levels will continue to undermine our fragile peace.

Surely there is a very significant role for the churches here, particularly the Christian Churches. They share a common understanding of the call to goodness, of the need to love one another as we have been loved by God, of the need to make the call to see one another as brothers and sisters real. Could we have a year for peace, when all our churches, all our clergymen, all our people would make a really concerted effort to set together, to be together, to acknowledge that the other is my brother or sister in Christ , and that that is what really matters. I do not think that we are capable of it. Yet I know that this is what those who profess belief in Christ are actually called to, and it would help provide a basis of growing trust upon which we can build anew. Part of our problem is that we still do not, as a society, understand that our Catholicism and our Protestantism do not mean that we cannot trust each other; that politicians in government could act for the common good rather than one side or the other.

We know from the work of peacemaking across the world, that most peace agreements break down within 15 years.

We meet at a critical time. But Northern Ireland seems to be always in crisis. The latest crisis results from First Minister Peter Robinson’s statement in the Belfast Telegraph that Stormont is not fit for purpose. There is no good time to do things in Northern Ireland. We have lurched from crisis to crisis in the context of the Troubles, buttressed on occasion by governmental help of the fiscal kind, by time, diplomatic effort and lots of other support - British, Irish and American, and also by the trading of legislative change, bringing, for example, equality and a degree of impunity for wrongdoing in exchange for decommissioning, for ceasefires and for peace. Thus is peace made. It is not an easy business; it inevitably requires compromise by all parties; it takes time; it can break down. We know from the work of peacemaking across the world, that most peace agreements break down within 15 years.

Now 20 years after the IRA ceasefire, and 16 years after the Good Friday Agreement we do have peace, but it may be fragile, and we need to preserve it. The discussions at high levels of politics are about whether the Assembly can survive, or whether either the DUP or Sinn Fein or both will collapse the Assembly. These are serious discussions.

We have known for a long time that the Assembly is not functioning as it should, as an effective legislative assembly, making decisions in the interests of the whole community. We seem to be still caught in the grip of sectarianism despite the chuckle brothers and all that sort of thing. Our politicians could not even agree to build one new super sports stadium at the site of the Maze Prison, so we have invested heavily in Ravenhill for rugby, Windsor Park for football and in Casement Park for GAA sports. The budgets of critical institutions of the GFA have been reduced, thereby reducing their capacity to operate. Most seriously the NI Human Rights Commission is facing budgetary cuts which may threaten its Category A status at the UN.

Peter Robinson has said our Assembly is not fit for purpose. We have known for years that it is seems incapable of dealing with issues such as education, health etc. In the three plus years of the current Assembly some 27 bills have became law. Seven of them were budget bills. The remaining 19 dealt with issues such as the licensing of pavement cafes, charges for carrier bags, rates amendments, changes to pensionable age, rates of air passenger duty. Most of the legislation is very limited and very short (many acts have fewer than a dozen clauses). In October £87m will be cut from the budget because NI has not agreed to give effect to the UK wide welfare reforms. There are more cuts to come. We can decide to continue to pay higher levels of welfare benefits than the rest of the UK, but the UK will not fund that spending and we will have to make cuts elsewhere. As a consequence our ability to fund our health, education, transport etc are compromised.

It is time for the British and Irish governments to begin to play their part again.

Can the Assembly survive? Are our politicians moving towards a period of direct rule, during which hard decisions will be made by British direct rule ministers so that the major parties can then return to government having avoided responsibility at the ballot box for those same hard decisions? I think we need help. I think it is time for the British and Irish governments to begin to play their part again. Our problems are their problems and their responsibilities. Devolution can achieve so much but our politicians do not seem capable of making things work in Northern Ireland.

And what is the root of the inability of our elected politicians to do that for which they were elected?

I think that it lies in sectarianism. The parties are divided on sectarian lines on so many issues. At the root of it all lie the three issues of the past, flags and parades which have divided us for so long.

Richard Haass and Megan O’Sullivan came to NI from the US in an attempt to facilitate some agreement between our politicians on these three issues. Despite many months of hard work, there was no agreement. The options for dealing with the past have been well rehearsed. The processes of criminal investigation, truth telling, storytelling, reparations, memorials are known. There are variations upon the themes which have been tried in different places, following different conflicts.

We are recognising the need to provide mechanisms to enable the stories to be told

There is really nothing new in all this. Nor is there anything new in the fact that the aftermath of conflict and of wrongdoing does not go away, despite the best efforts of governments when they seek to close down what has happened. Think for a moment about the elderly Kenyans who have emerged to claim compensation from the UK government for British wrongdoing, torture, during the Mau Mau uprising or Kenya Emergency in the 1950s. The Government now seems to be moving towards settling the claim. Think about the child survivors of neglect and abuse here in Ireland north and south, and about the mothers from whom some of those children were stolen. Most of it happened decades ago. Yet now we are recognising the need to provide mechanisms to enable the stories to be told, the realities established, in so far as that is possible, and ultimately compensation paid to those who have suffered.

In Northern Ireland there are difficult conversations to be had, difficult acknowledgements to be made about wrongdoing by state and non-state actors, reparations to be made for injuries suffered, and ultimately acceptance of the realities about which people still hesitate to speak, but which are manifest in cases like Bloody Sunday, in the recovery of the bodies of the Disappeared, stolen from their families, savagely murdered and secretly buried. It must happen if we are to be reconciled as a people.

We have the agreements and legislation which provide the context and framework for our attempt to build peace. The Decommissioning Act provided for limited amnesty in that evidence from decommissioned weapons and munitions could not be used in criminal trials. Legislation was enacted north and south to provide a mechanism through which experts could work to recover the remains of the Disappeared: Funding has been and continues to be provided by both governments for the work of recovering the bodies. Again evidence recovered as a consequence of information received under the Disappeared legislation, cannot be used in criminal trials.

It caused great pain to those who saw murderers walking free without serving their sentences.

Prisoner release was possibly the most emotive and difficult for ordinary people to deal with. That and the accompanying legislative provision (the Northern Ireland Sentences Act 1998) which provided for short sentences in respect of pre-1998 (Good Friday Agreement) incident convictions, was possibly the most emotive element of our peace process. Sentence Review Commissioners were appointed to determine eligibility for release. Only prisoners, convicted of scheduled offences and belonging to organizations on ceasefire were eligible for release, within two years of their conviction. It caused great pain to those who saw murderers walking free without serving their sentences. It had to be done, just as it has had to be done elsewhere. It is always a source of contention with talk of impunity, but it is a necessary part of most peace processes.

So we have the Legislative Assembly, we have the legislative framework, we have had huge resources and great generosity, particularly from Ireland and America, but we still have these intractable problems. The reason for it can be stated absolutely clearly by quoting the words of John F Kennedy in his Address to the United Nations General Assembly (1963) over 50 years ago.

“But peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. And if it is cast out there, then no act, no pact, no treaty, no organization can hope to preserve it without the support and the wholehearted commitment of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper; let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.”

That is the challenge which we face now. Somehow we have, as a society, to find within ourselves the capacity and the willingness to build our peace. The indicators are all that this will not happen in the near future.

Both Governments, I believe are acutely aware of the stasis which is our current situation.

Teresa Villiers, speaking at the BIA conference on 5 September, 2014, said:

“But whether it’s the mounting pressure on our policing and justice system or unrest on the streets, the last two years have shown beyond doubt the power the three legacy issues have come back to bite us.”

Minister Flanagan, who is here with us today, said that same day in London that:

“The Irish government attaches the utmost importance to Northern Ireland and my talks with the Secretary of State will focus on how Northern Ireland’s parties can be encouraged back to the table to address outstanding issues including parades, flags, and the past.”

He also said at the BIA that:

“For these reasons, in the months ahead and in facing current challenges, there is no viable alternative to the early resumption of political talks and the Irish Government is committed to using its influence and resources to achieve that objective.”

We have, too, to face the reality that our police are still fighting a battle against the remaining republican threat, and on a separate front they are fighting against the ongoing activities of loyalism. Chief Constable George Hamilton recognised the need to deal with the past, however he questions the cost of ongoing investigations to the PSNI. He is also left with the legacy of the problems relating to HET, identified in a very damaging HMIC report. He told the BIA on 06 September that “the work of HET remains on hold following the publication of last year’s challenging HMIC report following the work of Professor Patricia Lundy.”

This, in itself, means that money is being poured into HET to do the work which must be done but that work is “on hold.” He went on to say:

“The options I have around budgets have become extremely limited. Every choice I make has a consequence. If I put resources into one area of policing; I must take it from another. As Chief Constable, my immediate obligations must be to keeping people safe today. So, while we will continue to meet our legal obligations, there will now be change in how PSNI responds to the demands of the past and the pace at which we can service the demand.”

These are hugely sensitive issues; and there is a massive risk to public confidence in policing.

The impact of diminished confidence in policing cannot be exaggerated. We saw it over the years of the Troubles, when the Republican community and then the Loyalist community lost confidence in the police and ceased to cooperate, knowing that providing information to the police, supporting them in their work could lead to a bullet in the head or worse. We all know that policing operates only with the consent of the people, but more importantly, with the support of the people.

We cannot afford to allow confidence in policing to be reduced at a time when Northern Ireland is still struggling with the impact of paramilitarism, whilst simultaneously engaging in the battle against organised crime such as people trafficking, money laundering and drugs. In making statements such as “there will now be change in how PSNI responds to the demands of the past and the pace at which we can service the demand.”, the Chief Constable is sending out a very clear message that there will be less cooperation at a time when the PSNI are being very heavily criticised for not making material available for inquests, when they have just acknowledged the Police Ombudsman’s right of access to police premises and materials, having refused to provide information until the Police Ombudsman brought legal proceedings against the Chief Constable in court.

Whilst I acknowledge that the current Chief Constable moved to comply with the law when he took office, I do wonder what the financial cost to the PSNI has been of the legal disputes about disclosure of documents to the Coroner and the Police Ombudsman? More importantly perhaps what will be the effect on those communities who see this ongoing reluctance to provide papers and information as further evidence of cover up and collusion?

Flags and parades are not something which has bedevilled many of the conflicts across the world.

Dealing with the past is an issue which affects every post-conflict society. Flags and parades are not something which has bedevilled many of the conflicts across the world. They are inextricably linked here, in that they go to identity and particularly to unionist fears of a united Ireland, fears which may be heightened by the forthcoming Scottish referendum. There are now very few contentious parades. 4667 parades were notified in 2013-2014. Almost 90% of them passed off peacefully. Some 491 of them were regarded as sensitive. 187 were Twadell Avenue protest Parades and 54 related to the Garvaghy Road.

We have to be realistic. We cannot afford ongoing protests such as the Twadell Avenue protest - for those of you who are unaware of what is happening at Twaddle let me explain. On 12 July, 2013 the parade of Orangemen and bands were banned by the Parades Commission from parading past the adjacent nationalist Ardoyne on their way home from traditional Twelfth of July commemorations. Since then they have occupied an area of land in protest. Policing this situation cost £9m to May 2014. The costs must now be in the order of at least £12m.

We could have employed in the order of 500 additional nurses in our hospitals

In times of scarce resources it is crazy to expect society to spend in this way. 18 years ago we had the protests at Harryville Church. They cost several millions. They lasted 79 weeks and then they stopped. Then we had the Holy Cross protests. They lasted several months and cost millions. Now we have Twaddell. It too will pass. We could have employed in the order of 500 additional nurses in our hospitals had the Twadell money been utilised there! Which would the people of Northern Ireland really prefer, the Twadell protests or 500 extra nurses?

Parading occupies less of our focus now, and in a context of respect for the areas which are contentious, much has been achieved. So there is great hope that more could be done if people in authority would disregard the fear of being seen to act against their own, and to commend different approaches.

Flags on lampposts are a lesser problem, but we have had serious trouble around the flags issue generally. We see tricolours and Palestinian flags, union flags and Israeli flags, and all the loyalist paramilitary flags flying. There is a market in developing new flags which demonstrate identity. There is no doubt that the presence of tribal flags has a depressive effect on the value of property in the communities within which they are displayed. For most people, though they might not dare to say it, the raggy Union flags flying from lampposts surely cannot be symbols of loyalty to the Crown?

We need changes of hearts and minds. We need, in the words of JFK to “strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people.”

The work can only be incremental – there is something around this process of mindset that is very difficult to change. Trust is the key to all relationships, and that trust is the product of both knowledge and understanding – when people know the other and understand the other, they see the other no longer as the other but rather as another person who shares their world. When the person shares their world they cease to be such a threat.

She must have destroyed his street cred but she was a brave woman.

Over the years I have watched the changing of minds and hearts – I have seen people who were once sworn enemies sitting in the same room telling what has happened to them and then working out a way of working together for a better community. In Harryville, during the protests I saw a brave mother, all of 5 feet tall take the arm of her six foot tall teenage son and drag him away from the protest. She must have destroyed his street cred but she was a brave woman. I have watched leading republicans protect British soldiers from attack during rioting. We seem to have seen the end of those relentless summers of riot and destruction. Now children play more in summer and rioting is not the inevitable occurrence which they must face. We do not see soldiers on our streets. But we still have paramilitary violence and we still have too much sectarianism.

I remember being with a group of about 200 people once at a very difficult time in a particular area and after lengthy discussions a woman said to me “You don’t understand.” So I told her that I was there to understand and invited her to explain and she told me “The only good Taig is a dead Taig” It was a shocking moment, but we were able to get through it and the meeting was not lost, indeed it was fruitful at the end of the day. As Albert Einstein famously remarked:

“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”       We have come now to a place and a time when some people can very often carefully and respectfully meet and talk about these things, to enable the understanding which will allow us to embed peace in our society. We can work together to improve our environment. There are those who are trying now to dismantle the peace walls, rather than build more – but only when those who live within the shadow of their protection want them to be dismantled, because we want our people to feel as safe as they can. We want them to have jobs and training and hope.

It is work in which wounds have been opened, and people have known again the pain of their anguish, but sometimes the opening of the wound brings with it healing and healing enables the person to move forward, and so, slowly, slowly we move to real peace. The external media has largely lost interest in Northern Ireland – there is no longer the steady flow of atrocities to report on, the vicious attacks by one group on the other. And so they have largely gone. Most of the real work of reconciliation is the work done, away from the TV cameras, by ordinary people, in community centres and leisure centres – it is the work of healing, and it is the work which will enable reconciliation. That is the work of every citizen of this island of Ireland.

This work of changing the hearts and minds of men, is very slow, very hard work. It is the work that will really copper-fasten our peace. Franklin D Roosevelt once said:

“If civilisation is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together in the same world at peace.”

The challenge for Northern Ireland is to find a way to deal with the past so as to enable the present and the future. Any solution must be fully compliant with the Rule of Law and all national and international obligations. Only then can we build a future for our children and their children.

We need a single legacy commission to do that. Eames Bradley recommended it. The arguments are conclusive. At present we have a multi-agency approach to the cases involving the Police Ombudsman, the PSNI and its HET and finally the Coroner.

The duplication resulting from the current arrangements can be stated very succinctly. Investigations move from one organisation to the other. They may start with HET, or the Police Ombudsman where there are allegations of police misconduct, they may then move from HET to the PSNI or to the Police Ombudsman, from the Police Ombudsman to the PSNI, from the Police Ombudsman to the HET, from the PSNI to the Police Ombudsman and at the end of the day, as is currently the case involving the investigation of UVF/ police wrongdoing, the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman may end up simultaneously investigating the same case from different perspectives.

The consequences are obvious.

Each time one of the investigative bodies embarks on an investigation, it must first review and where necessary re-investigate any previous investigation. This means that there is significant waste of resources as the same tasks are undertaken repeatedly by different organisations.

There are strict rules in relation to investigations which require the protection of the rights of accused persons. If the Police Ombudsman is investigating he must protect the rights of any accused or suspected police officer. He must also treat witnesses, police and non-police, in accordance with the law. A person may be a witness for PONI, and simultaneously a suspect for the PSNI, since only the PSNI can investigate civilians, the military etc. This will inevitably lead to complications as the Police Ombudsman, investigating a case in which a police officer is alleged to have colluded in criminal activity with, for example a paramilitary, cannot take evidence as to that paramilitary’s criminal activity, but must instead report it to the PSNI for them to investigate. As such cases move towards prosecution there will be the most difficult of challenges in dealing with disclosure.

Similarly the PSNI will have to treat current and former police officers, under investigation by the Police Ombudsman as witnesses, rather than as suspects, even though they are suspected of wrongdoing. If PSNI becomes aware of grounds to suspect particular types of wrongdoing by police officers they must refer the officers to the Police Ombudsman for investigation.

The waste of resources involved in all this is palpable. Investigation is a very expensive process. To have all this repeated unnecessary investigative work is to waste tens of thousands of pounds each year.


We need one totally independent investigative, fully empowered and fully resourced body. I will call it the Investigation Commission, to operate in accordance with all established national and international standards of investigation, with a remit to examine any Troubles related cases involving death up to 2006, the date of the St. Andrew’s Agreement, in which there is a complaint by victims, family members or where there is a reference by Government, by a Judge, by the Coroner, by the Director of Public Prosecutions or any other agreed body such as the Criminal Case Review Commission, or where the Investigation Commission itself thinks that investigation is necessary in the public interest.

The PSNI would cease to investigate any case involving Troubles-related deaths occurring before 2006. The HET would cease to exist. The Police Ombudsman’s historic Troubles-related investigations would cease to exist and all the work would be transferred to the new Commission. The Police Ombudsman would retain a non-Troubles-related historic investigative capacity so as not to damage confidence in that Office and in policing.

The Investigation Commission would have to be established in a totally transparent manner, and could be required to be accountable to Parliament in respect of cases which predates the devolution of justice, and to the NI Assembly in respect of cases which may have occurred post devolution.

Such a system would require flexibility and imaginative and co-operative working processes between the two legislative bodies, something which exists already in the context of the allocation of control over matters such as the UK’s national security interests, international human rights responsibilities, the operation of the CCRC etc.

Accountability, transparency of working procedures and openness would be vital to the ability of the Investigation Commission to attract and maintain public confidence and trust.


The Investigation Commission’s investigations would inevitably reveal linked crimes and themes such as those I identified in Operation Ballast, and my various investigations as Police Ombudsman. Given what we know thus far, these are virtually certain to reveal collusive activity, significant intelligence handling failings, failures to investigate, and many other problems. All of these should be examined and reported on by the Investigation Commission with a view to ensuring that lessons are learned.

There really is no money in the current budgets for this work, and it must be properly resourced. There is a fear among some politicians that we cannot afford even financially to deal with the past. But those who have been bereaved, and the people of these islands need to move this work forward, so that the truth can be told, lessons learned so that history will not repeat itself. The UK government, supported possibly by the Irish and Americans, could provide separate ring-fenced funding for such an Investigation Commission, so that the NI budget would not be adversely affected, in recognition perhaps of all that has happened.

There are all sorts of inquiries and panels running in the UK looking at issues from our involvement in Iraq, to child abuse, to medical failings and even to individual murders such as the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel which I now chair. They do require funding, but what has happened here has left a legacy of trauma, pain, mental illness, very high suicide levels, alcohol and drug addiction, poverty and in some cases sheer hopelessness. Exceptional situations require exceptional solutions. Northern Ireland does not seem capable of creating its own solution. Could the UK, Ireland and the USA work together to help further enable our fragile peace.

As Ban Ki-Moon said, marking the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and later Nagasaki:

“True security is based on people’s welfare - on a thriving economy, on strong public health and education programmes, and on fundamental respect for our common humanity. Development, peace, disarmament, reconciliation and justice are not separate from security; they help to underpin it.”