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Families failed over legacy cases

Almost a year after the collapse of Stormont and with the political impasse showing no sign of being resolved, the exasperation of those involved in legacy cases is becoming acute.

Last week in this newspaper, the relatives of almost 120 victims of the notorious Glenanne Gang published an open letter to Chief Constable George Hamilton, asking him to abide by a High Court judgment ordering an independent investigation into the killings.

The murders, which took place between 1972 and 1978, were previously examined by the Historical Enquiries Team but the cold case team was disbanded before the final report was released.

The families want the report into collusion completed in a timely fashion by an independent, fully resourced team.

They also want to see an end to the legal wrangling which delays the search for truth and denies answers to relatives, many of whom have died while the matter has worked slowly through the courts.

It was clear from the open letter that the families feel a profound sense of frustration at the glacial pace of progress.

What is has done is spurred the chief constable into issuing his own open letter in The Irish News, this time directed at 'elected representatives with responsibility for policing.'

Mr Hamilton's letter also expresses frustration at the lack of political progress in dealing with the past, pointing out that three years after the Historical Investigations Unit was proposed in the Stormont House Agreement, 'nothing has changed.'

While he is `frustrated and concerned' he says this cannot compare to the 'raw hurt and pain' experienced by grieving families.

It is appropriate for the chief constable to acknowledge the suffering of those who have lost relatives but the families will be disappointed that he has confirmed he will be appealing the judgment of Mr Justice Treacy in July.

Mr Hamilton says he is in an 'impossible position', pointing out that while the High Court has found that he has a legal obligation to investigate the Glenanne cases, the PSNI is not sufficiently independent to conduct that investigation.

Outsourcing the investigation would cost £60 million at a time when the policing budget has been cut by £180 million, he said.

It could also be argued the families are in an impossible situation.

They have received judicial rulings that should have progressed these issues yet they are still no further on.

They have publicly appealed for the chief constable to take the steps set out by the court yet are faced with further legal action.

There is no doubt the political stalemate is making a bad situation worse and the failure to deal with the legacy issue is failing families who have lost so much.

But in this instance, the police must face up to its responsibilities in respect of a High Court ruling.

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