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Relatives of Troubles victims failed yet again

Families seeking the truth about the murders of loved ones during the Troubles are well used to setbacks and disappointment.

Delays, obstruction and obfuscation are all very familiar to people battling for answers in respect of legacy cases.

Despite the frustrations and reversals, the stalling on funding and the lack of information and cooperation from official sources, many relatives battle on in the hope that one day there will finally be some form of justice for a life lost.

Unfortunately, the justice system that should be ensuring that murderers are held to account and the full circumstances of a heinous crime fully disclosed, has failed families time and again.

The latest bitter blow came this week with the decision not to prosecute thirteen suspects implicated by UVF killer and police informer Gary Haggarty.

The Public Prosecution Service said there was insufficient corroborating evidence to support the allegations levelled by Haggerty to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Among the suspects are two former RUC special branch handlers who worked with Haggarty when he was an informer.

There are clear risks in so-called supergrass cases and their use in the past has been widely discredited.

It is bad enough that any hopes for justice have been dashed but the anger of the families is compounded by the knowledge that Haggarty, who has pleaded guilty to 202 paramilitary offences including five murders, could soon be a free man.

Furthermore, because he has turned evidence against his former colleagues, he will be given a new identity and new life under the witness protection scheme at considerable cost to the public purse, adding to the millions that have already been spent on this complex case.

Jackie Larkin, who is fighting for justice for her murdered brother Gerard Brady, spoke for many families when she said: ``I cannot count how many times we have been let down.''

These are families who are putting their faith in the justice system.

It is time that faith was repaid.

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