Making haste slowly in dealing with the past

In the words of the old witticism, in dealing with the past  there’s no Northern Ireland equivalent  to the Spanish  mañana  that has quite the same sense  of urgency, despite the £30 million earmarked for  legacy issues by the Stormont  House agreement. Or is that too bleak a view?

Patricia Bell (67), is seeking to challenge the estimated 2025 target date for a Police Ombudsman report into the circumstances surrounding her father’s death. Patrick Murphy was shot dead on his 63rd birthday in November 1982. He was shot as he served customers at his general grocer’s shop on Mount Merrion Road in Belfast. Peter Coll QC told the court the deal could be “a game-changer” in both the Murphy and Benstead cases. “I’m instructed this morning it’s anticipated that the HIU will be established and operational by the summer of 2016,” he said. A five-year timescale for completing inquiries transferred over the unit remains in place, the court was told. Both legal challenges are still expected to proceed at a later date.

A NEW independent body for investigating Troubles killings could take two years to start work, the chief constable has said.

George Hamilton said he was anticipating an 18 to 24 month time frame for legislation required to create the proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU). He pledged that, in the meantime, the PSNI’s newly-assembled Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) would pursue the cases in a professional and determined manner and would not repeat the mistakes of its controversial predecessor, the Historical Enquiries Team.

The PSNI’s response to  judicial review in legacy cases such as the Glenanne murders may have some effect. For post 1998 crime, it’s also encouraging it looks as if agreement is about to be reached on allowing the National Crime Agency to operate in NI.

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