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Barra McGrory faced unfair and unwarranted criticism

Barra McGrory has insisted that his decision to step down as Director of Public Prosecutions after five years in the role is not due to the continuing controversy over legacy cases.

However, there is no doubt that as the first Catholic holder of this office he was subjected to a level of deeply unfair and highly personal pressure which was absent in respect of his predecessors and indeed other senior legal officials in the north.

It is to his credit that he was determined to main the independence, impartiality and integrity of his office and not be derailed by the unwarranted criticism that surrounded the decision to prosecute a small number of security force personnel - criticism that bore little relation to the facts.

This focus on the DPP in terms of legacy cases tended to ignore the other key players in the justice system, including the police.

Mr McGrory said he regrets that legacy had become the story of his tenure and clearly wished that this issue had been resolved by the architects of the peace process.

That is surely a view that will be shared by other senior figures, including the Chief Constable and the Lord Chief Justice, who have expressed frustration at various stages in regard to this matter.

Chiefly, of course, it is the victims most of all who want the legacy of the past dealt with and this is something the current political leadership needs to address.

While there is obvious attention on Troubles cases, it should be recognised that Mr McGrory's role went much wider and included implementing institutional reform, which is never an easy task.

He also adopted an open approach and was much more accessible than his predecessors, being prepared to explain PPS decisions and answer questions on actions taken.

That is absolutely as it should be in senior public roles but does not happen nearly often enough.

Attention will now turn to Mr McGrory's successor and we can but hope that person will carry on the role in an equally independent, rigorous and transparent manner.

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