Need for new way of dealing with past: Dr Maguire

Published Date: 07.08.2018

Dealing with the past must be done differently if we are to ensure a stable and shared society, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire has said.

Dr Maguire made the comments today at a Féile an Phobail event in west Belfast entitled, Investigating the Past: The Challenges of Competing Narratives.

The Ombudsman, who is entering his final year as head of the police oversight body, posed the question of ‘why we investigate the past at all’ and ‘how do we do it differently’.

Questioning the current approach to legacy issues and the ‘battleground’ of narrative, he also debated whether discussions on the past could be meaningful without further polarization.

“I think there is one area that needs to be debated upfront and that is why are we doing it all?” said Dr Maguire.

“I am not coming from the perspective that we should not investigate the past but rather a different question of ‘what are we trying to achieve by doing so?’

“In my view, the needs of victims and families and indeed, future generations, will not be served if we fail to have some sense of where we want to go.

“What is clear is that investigating the past in the same way and expecting different results will not work.”

Highlighting issues such as severe underfunding, the absence of a shared agreement on the way forward and the polarisation caused by competing narratives as major difficulties in the current approach to legacy issues, he added that the likely success of criminal prosecutions in cases going back decades also needed to be addressed honestly.

“This is a tough message for families who have been waiting years for an answer,” he acknowledged.

Concluding his address at St Mary’s University College Dr Maguire said: “The wider challenge, and perhaps a more difficult one, is to ensure that the end result is building a stable and a shared society rather than undermining its foundations.

“There are uncomfortable truths to be told and how we respond will be the critical issue.”


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