Claudy has exposed a drifting system that is increasing victims’ pain

So now the Historical Enquiries Team are planning another review into the Claudy bombing. This follows the Police Ombudsman’s report based on their review of old police files – presumably also reviewed by the HET earlier when they were dealing with the 1972 files as a whole .  The process seems to be going round and round and growing ever more complex. Small wonder that the Police Ombudsman the Canadian Al Hutchinson protests to Barney Rowan that the whole business is getting on top of him.

There are currently 106 historical cases on his desk — all requiring detailed examination… ”

It took eight years to complete the Claudy investigation, a report that confirmed a cover-up by Government, police and the Catholic Church after priest Fr James Chesney was identified in RUC intelligence reports as a senior member of the IRA who had directed the bombings.

“I dismay at the task we have in front of us,” Mr Hutchinson said. “I don’t think it’s the right course… “I have appealed and I appeal again to Government to work hard with civil society to find a cross-community solution to getting truth and information.”

On the caseload currently with his office, he admitted: “Well, I’m saying it will take up to 50 years.

I’ve met a number of families and laid that truth on the line.

“It’s not only unacceptable, but that’s 106 cases today and we keep getting referrals from the Historical Enquiries Team (and) the public keeps coming forward to us.”

( The ” eight years” seems as incredible as Saville’s twelve years,  but we’ll  let that pass).  Rowan reports that a new advisory panel is about to start helping the Ombudsman’s office to assess priorities. This may be useful because as far as I know the Ombudsman’s team, like the HET is largely staffed by outsiders. While they are no doubt very professional and have got a handle on much of material, greater local involvement seems overdue – held back no doubt because of the perception of being tainted.

Hutchinson’s plaintive appeal should prick up the ears of  the  politicians in Stormont and Westminster.  This sounds like a system near collapse, or at least,  badly bogged down. For Hutchinson’s more incisive predecessor, hand wringing is not enough. Nuala O’Loan is on record as favouring a bolder approach.

What is now essential is the creation of a single, impartial, independent investigation office to deal with all the outstanding cases of the past. Properly funded and empowered for whatever period is necessary, working with full governmental co-operation, it could, in a much more cost-effective manner, deal with such cases.

While Eames Bradley has been rejected, its analysis and many of its solutions are the best we’ve got. It contains the options for a new recovery process.  (and let’s get over the recognition payments). Dealing with the Past is a topic that is drifting.  It threatens only to cause more heartache and frustration, the very negation of its purpose. It’s about time it was gripped.

Issues like freedom from self-incrimination and  who shall fund it can be ducked no longer.  

Do the people of Claudy have to go through all that again?  For what?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London