North needs to confront past quickly, says DPP

North needs to confront past quickly, says DPP
GERRY MORIARTY Northern Editor
Irish Times
3 February 2012

SOCIETY SHOULD speedily find a way of dealing with the past, the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory, QC, has told a human rights group in Belfast. He also questioned whether politicians had the will to confront the issue.

Mr McGrory, who late last year took over as head of the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service, broke new ground yesterday by becoming the first director of public prosecutions to visit the Belfast offices of the Committee on the Administration of Justice and speak to its members.

“As things stand at the moment there is no mechanism for dealing with the past other than the application of the rule of law,” he said in his address to the committee as part of the events marking the 30th anniversary of the human rights body.

Mr McGrory, who was involved in several high-profile cases during and after the Troubles, including representing the families of the three IRA members killed by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988, acknowledged that tackling the legacy of the conflict was difficult. But he believed a proper debate was required as to whether there was an appropriate method that would be an alternative to the current situation where the Historical Enquiries Team and the office of the Police Ombudsman effectively dealt with the past.

“I think there is an imperative in the public interest that society finds a mechanism to deal with the past,” he said.

“Whether that be simply giving more resources to the investigators to get on with the investigating, and then consequentially the prosecution service to prosecute cases if the evidence emerges, or whether or not society is ready for a solution to the past outside of the prosecutorial system, is a matter that I think this society needs to confront,” he said.

“In my view, the sooner it confronts it the better – but confront it, it needs to.

“I think at the moment there perhaps isn’t a will to confront it in political circles because of the enormity of the decisions that have to be taken . . . But that is not for me, that is for politicians and for society.”