A number of senior police officers criticised the government's proposals for dealing with the legacy of the past in testimony to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this week.
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne told the committee that many people still favour implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, rather than the plan announced in March to close down most investigations. Retired police chief Jon Boutcher also expressed disquiet, while acknowledging that prosecutions were unlikely in many historic case (BBC).
Boutcher is the head of Operation Kenova, which is examining allegations related to the alleged army agent known as 'Stakeknife'. In his opening statement, he told the Committee:
The operating model during the Troubles consisted of the security forces (often) prioritising intelligence collection above information dissemination. They focused on protecting where intelligence came from due to the high risks involved in its collection. Investigators were often not given the available intelligence.
A critical success for Kenova has been the agreeing of information sharing protocols with the leadership of the PSNI, MOD and MI5. We have recovered records others did not have access to.
Notwithstanding this, a culture of secrecy prevails within the security forces. They see any examination of legacy in itself as a criticism of them and that disclosure of information represents a threat to national security. Neither assertion is correct. It is what sets us apart as a democracy that having been unable to deal with these cases properly at the time due to the danger that existed to everyone we should now do what we can to give families information. (Full PDF)
The next evidence session on legacy, on 9 September, will hear from Conservative Peer Lord Caine, former Labour Northern Ireland Secretary Lord Hain, former UUP leader Lord Empey and former SDLP leader Baroness Ritchie.