Prior to his pending retirement in May 2017, Prison Ombudsman Tom McGonigle talks to David Whelan about the role of his office and the latest annual report. In March 2016, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed legislation to support placing the Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on a statutory footing. Tom McGonigle believes this is a...
Secretary of State James Brokenshire’s wade into the heated and divisive issue of legacy in Northern Ireland’s politics has brought criticism from those opposed to his view that inquiries into the killings during the Troubles are “disproportionately” focused on the police and army.
Two years after the Stormont House Agreement established a consensus on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, no concrete plan has been agreed between the main parties. While addressing the past has remained a pressing and emotive issue at Stormont, it has returned to the forefront of the public conscious in recent weeks when a Conservative MP used parliamentary privilege at Westminster to state that Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory had engaged in political decision making.
McGrory stated that he was “insulted” by wider claims that cases involving the British Army are being unfairly prioritised. Critics, including a leading unionist MLA, have said that a DUP focus on legacy are an attempt to divert attention away from the ongoing RHI scandal in the run up to the election.
In late January, Brokenshire was criticised for writing in a national newspaper that it was clear “the current focus is disproportionately on those who worked for the state – former members of the Armed Forces and the RUC”. He added that, “we are in danger of seeing the past rewritten” in relation to the prosecutions being made on the evidence unearthed by the Legacy Branch of the PSNI’s reinvestigation of British Army killings as part of a review into all conflict related deaths.
Criticising Brokenshire’s comments, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, accused the Secretary of State of disrespecting the families of those killed by soldiers during the Troubles.