Can We Afford The HET?

Can we afford the HET?



Back in April this year we all saw Dr Patricia Lundys’ report on the impartial procedures and investigations of the Historical Enquiry Team. Although rejected by the HET there still will be an independent review of how the HET investigates killings by soldiers during the troubles. Chief Constable Matt Baggott to whom the HET are directly accountable, has requested the review through Her Majestys Inspector of Constabulary. “In a statement rejecting the criticism, the HET said there had been a number of cases where families of victims of Army shootings welcomed apologies from the government and Ministry of Defence after the HET dismissed the original military version of events.” (

This new concept (The HET) was established to review over 3200 deaths that occurred in the troubles prior to 1998. During the first 6 years the HET received £34m to do the work. In the next 2 years the Dept of Justice in Stormont funded the HET to the tune of £13m. Strangely enough the same Executive and Dept have refused a further request of £10m from the HET. Given that the HET are directly accountable to the PSNI the HET were informed that their application should be paid from PSNI reserves. Apparently the HET have still 950 deaths to investigate and if the funds are not available then hundreds of deaths will go un-investigated. I was wondering if those deaths could be the the ones under review in Dr Patricia Lundys research? So you can see that an investment of £47m isn’t enough and many of the victims are not satisfied then I ask why we need these investigations. Could £47m have been spent on a different format? A format that would take Northern Irelands’ shared future document forward and bring our people closer together. This format would end the useless internment of old ex-combatants and take the working class communities forward. The Dept of Justice has responded by stating that the HETs work is priority and they intend to see a continuation of the HET. Is it safe to assume that £10m will be found to fund a further 2 years work? Such a pity given the fact that our Health system fails us, our education system fails young people, many primary schools are to be closed and the unemployment rate grows. However, the continuation of a format that creates other victims i.e. the loved ones of incarcerated ex-combatants could possibly bring about a serious deterioration of the already unstable peace process. I refer to an article by David Whiteside published in Belfast Telegraph and where he states;

“Of course my point surrounds the actions of the Historical Enquiries Team (H.E.T), never mentioned in a referendum voted by the people of this country and brought onto the scene in 2005 after the St Andrews agreement between the four largest political parties.  The majority of those arrested have already served long prison sentences for other offences, which leads me to the question – What are we achieving by locking these old men away for a token gesture of two years? Hardly closure for loved ones.   If this is allowed to continue, where will it end?  A futile, destabilising and costly process for all communities who voted unanimously to move forward in the name of peace and prosperity after so many troubled years.”

I also listened to Jude Whites’ interview with Stephen Nolan and as a victim who lost his mother he supports a different format and one that will be focused more upon the truth than apologies that may never be meant. Worth listening too.

We as a Northern Irish community need to find a different way to address the issues of closure and justice or we may end up in the depths of despair once more.

South Belfast



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