Posted By: July 10, 2013


Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, June 10, 2013

IT IS worth reading Patricia Lundy’s first article on the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) published in 2009 because it raised a lot of questions above and beyond the fiasco that she revealed the HET to be.

She produced her findings under the auspices of the excellent Transitional Justice Institute at University of Ulster so the article examined academically a variety of approaches to dealing with the past in societies that have emerged from conflict. Her work on the HET took the form of a case study. It now appears the HET is a case study in how not to do it.

Dr Lundy was in on the ground floor, so to speak. Hugh Orde set up the HET in 2005 and she began her work in August 2005, completing her study in December 2007. Orde gave her unprecedented access to the workings of the HET so she saw how the organisation developed almost from its beginning. Orde left the PSNI in 2009 and was succeeded by Matt Baggott. Did Baggott ever read Lundy’s article and if he did, why did he do nothing about it?

Stephen Otter of HMIC said in his report: “What is indefensible is that she did make these findings in 2009, so for four years nothing was being done to address those findings and I do find that that is very difficult to believe.”

That question needs to be addressed to Baggott. The HET reported to the chief constable. The PSNI controlled its finance and its purse strings. What was Baggott doing? If the HET is a unit of the PSNI then surely there should have been some supervision? Yet Otter makes it clear there wasn’t.

Otter said: “I do think[Lundy] deserves an apology from the chief constable on behalf of the PSNI.”

What she got from Baggott was, to say the least, less than fulsome. He inserted that weasel word ‘if’, regularly employed nowadays to wriggle out of an outright apology. Baggott offered her an apology “if she felt her concerns were not taken seriously enough”. In fact, the HET and Baggott’s PSNI both rejected her conclusions as recently as the beginning of this year.

Baggott tried to claim to the BBC that the preferential treatment of military killings was ‘on a case-by-case basis’. Otter said it was a ‘policy’ and an illegal one at that. The preferential treatment of military killings exposed as illegal completely vindicates Dr Lundy’s findings but has managed to obscure one of the most damning conclusions in her original article in 2009, namely that in the HET “all aspects of intelligence are managed by former RUC and Special Branch officers”. They made up the majority of the HET’s intelligence unit. Lundy went on to say “the strategic positioning of former RUC officers and particularly those with a Special Branch background not only undermines actual but perceived independence”. She concluded that for various reasons “the ‘old guard’ kept a grip of the essential areas of HET business”.

That was not any prejudice on Lundy’s part. After a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case – Brecknell v UK – the ECHR required the HET to provide investigative teams who have no previous history with the RUC. Lundy pointed out they didn’t. Did Baggott, who spent most of this year presenting his own interpretation of Article 2 of the Human Rights Act as a reason for PSNI inaction, not know the HET’s practice was not complying with ECHR requirements? Why not? Why did the PSNI ignore her report? Where was Baggott?

On the wider front it’s clear that the HET is dead. That means there’s nothing to provide any resolution for families wondering how or why relatives were killed. The HET was never intended or expected to be the answer but it was all there was. Its ignominious collapse exposes the failures of the British and Irish governments to produce something along the lines of Eames-Bradley which the previous Labour government ran away from in 2009 using the pathetic pretext of the suggestion of £12,000 per person as a reason for binning the whole report.

The two governments have questions to answer but so has Matt Baggott. Sinn Fein are wrong to accept Dave Cox as a scapegoat.