Families react with anger to HET changes

OUTRAGE has been expressed after Stormont’s Justice department decided to cut its funding to the Historical Enquiries Team, the body given the task of reviewing more than 3,200 deaths during the Troubles.

Public confidence in the HET, especially among Dungannon District families seeking justice for loved ones killed by loyalist or state forces, will be shattered, a Dungannon Councillor has warned.

Independent Republican representative Barry Monteith said the news had been met with dismay and anger by local families who have been denied the truth.

The justice department has refused a £10m request from the HET, and asked the PSNI to put forward the money from its own reserves.

Councillor Monteith said the funding switch turned the HET into ‘an absolute sham’.

“This flies in the face of any attempt to portray the HET as an independent, impartial body”, he claimed.

“We have the situation where many local families are having their pursuit of justice obstructed by former RUC officers who instruct their solicitors to delay and hamper court inquiries.

“These families have been waiting for 20 and 30 years to have an inquest, and the main reason for their delay is the behaviour of MOD and police solicitors blocking proceedings.

“I am very concerned that this will mean the guilty people will never be held to account. What other democracy in the world would permit such an obvious injustice to take place?

“I fear that this will only add to the suffering of local families. It will mean that the state will be completely in charge of investigating the state, and will allow the British government to continue covering up its dirty tricks.”

While critics have described it as simply another wing of the police, since its creation in 2005 the HET has insisted that it is operationally independent.

Hundreds of families have co-operated with the team on the basis that it was acting independently.

Many Dungannon families of people killed during the Troubles did not want former police officers from Northern Ireland involved in the review of their case.

The team has also had financial independence - but that will change next month when the new financial year begins.