Al Hutchinson: Unresolved legacy issues left in the ‘too difficult’ tray will destroy this Office

It’s easy to forget now, given all the posturing going on over Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson and the way he has interpreted the specifics of his role and that of his Office, that his appointment was enthusiastically endorsed by some of the parties who now seem desperately keen to shuffle him out the door upon the flimsiest of evidence (now where have we heard that before?).

As Pete has noted, Tony McCusker’s report found a little more than office politics involved, but these seem to have been scaled up in order to punish Hutchinson for his view that it is not part of his job (alone of all the statutary bodies) to investigate past offences.

If I might brigade Jude Collins’s great line for a purpose he might not agree with, Sorry the past is over, it cannot be ‘dealt with’ (unless you’re a cop). Here’s Hutchinson’s presentation to the Assembly today.

The Office of the Police Ombudsman was not set up as a proxy for resolving the wider unresolved legacy issues. And yet we find ourselves cast in that role and getting dragged back in that direction.

Make no mistake; failure to address the wider legacy issues will have continuing grave consequences beyond me. Continuing to leave the unresolved legacy issues in the ‘too difficult’ tray or accepting
the ‘status quo’ will destroy this Office and the good it was set up to do.

As Jim Allister notes on Twitter, four months in and not even a Programme for Government yet. So don’t hold your breath. Just be a little bit sceptical when we are offered on the flimsy platter the head of another public servant as a sacrificial cow for the inability of our politicians to agree a decent and serviceable way forward.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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