‘He displays little awareness of the credibility gap there is over the reputation of the RUC in general and Special Branch in particular – Mike Ritchie.
RETIRED police officers involved in controversial murders (killings) during the Troubles have been told (new police service of the North of Ireland) the PSNI will defend (the corroupt murders) the RUC during legacy investigations.
A series of ‘legacy information seminars’ have taken place since 2012 to give advice and support to RUC/PSNI officers who may be asked to give evidence at Troubles inquests. Those who attend the controversial meetings include members of the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association (NIRPOA). Details about the briefings were revealed last week during a preliminary inquest hearing into the deaths of six people, including PIRA members and a Catholic teenager, in alleged shoot-to-kill operations in the 1980s. Senior coroner John Leckey is also considering the case of three RUC men killed in a PIRA explosion around the same time. During the hearing Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris rejected suggestions that the RUC/PSNI is “protecting” former police officers involved in controversial killings. Notes from legacy briefings in 2012 obtained by The Irish News following a Freedom of Information request reveal that during one meeting Mr Harris told retired officers “we don’t disassociate ourselves from what happened in the past”. The then assistant chief constable, whose father Alwyn, a superintendent in the RUC, was killed by an PIRA bomb in Lisburn in 1989, also said he had “great pride in my RUC service – if there is something we can do to put an allegation in a proper light, we will”. According to the documents, former deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie – whose office organised the semininars – said “legacy is one of the defining issues of our future”. “We are all proud of our service in the RUC,” she said. “The PSNI is determined to play our part in the defence of the RUC.” The papers show that an unnamed person who attended the meetings, but is believed to be a member of the PSNI’s legal team, offered re-assurance about the force’s role during a question and answer session. “(The) bedrock of what we are trying to do is protect our people – to protect the reputation of the oganisation and to protect people’s security,” the official said. During a question and answer session in November 2012, Ms Gillespie – who retired earlier this year – was also asked “Will you protect the old RUC?”. She said: “Organisation’s concern is that the truth be told – our interests are all the same. There may be some small instances of conflict of interest but if we make sure that we have a joined up approach, we can manage the C of I (sic).” Niall Murphy of KRW Law, who represents some families going through the inquest process, claimed the notes raised concerns about the RUC/PSNI’s attitude to coronial proceedings. Mike Ritchie from Relatives for Justice said: “After watching and listening to Drew Harris over the course of two hearings amounting to four and a half in the witness stand, he displays little awareness of the credibility gap there is over the reputation of the RUC in general and Special Branch in particular.” However, Ulster Unionist assembly member Tom Elliot said he would look at legacy information seminars “in the round and the picture in its totality”. He said he would be cautious about suggestions of people trying to protect themselves – “I am not sure that would be the case”. The former UUP leader added that some former police officers would have sources and “perhaps informants” that they may wish to protect.
With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News, for the origional story.