‘Getting to the truth for the Victims’ – By Brian Rowan

Social share:

Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher has described his complex investigation here in Northern Ireland as “a long journey”.

Just how long, he is not prepared to say, although it is understood he is not anticipating the five years suggested by some.

Boutcher was speaking to the eamonnmallie.com website on a day when the past became yet another political battle.

Prime Minister Theresa May set out her preference for investigations to be conducted in chronological order and said any legacy process must be balanced, proportionate and fair.

During PM Questions, Mrs May avoided a direct response on the suggestion of a statute of limitations to protect veterans who served here, but her commentary prompted an angry response from Sinn Fein’s leader in the north.

The past is part of the election battle and will be part of the negotiations that will follow the counting of the votes.

In advance of that negotiation, the DUP has set out its position – that it “will not permit the re-writing of the past or the persecution of the security forces”.

As that battle plays out, the Boutcher investigation continues.
He is leading Operation Kenova, shining an investigative spotlight on a series of IRA killings, the suspected role of the British Army Agent known as Stakeknife and what was known across the various intelligence agencies – military, the then RUC Special Branch and the British Security Service MI5.

“I’m very conscious well over 3,500 people lost their lives during the Troubles,” Boutcher told this website:

“Many others have life changing injuries and many others suffer from the psychological effects of those dark days.”

Boutcher’s detective team has been drawn mainly from the Metropolitan Police and other UK forces in the south of England.
“We have been able to select from a pool of excellent candidates,” he continued.

“This investigation deals with only a small number of those victims and it’s important we don’t forget the suffering of all of those from the Troubles period.”

Operation Kenova is investigating the abduction, torture and murder of a number of people who were accused by the IRA of being informants.

The bodies dumped on the border, at roadsides and on country lanes, are a haunting reminder of that dark past that Boutcher describes.

“The investigation will pursue all of those responsible whether they were members of the security forces or the IRA in whatever capacity they may have contributed to these awful crimes,” the Bedfordshire Chief Constable recently told eamonnmallie.com.

Freddie Scappaticci, a Belfast republican interned in the 1970s and now living outside Northern Ireland, denies he was Stakeknife. Boutcher intends to interview the alleged agent, but will not say when or comment further.

The investigation is happening as those arguments continue over the implementation of a legacy structure.

A proposed Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) are not yet in place. Negotiations will resume immediately after the March 2 Assembly election.

“Those seeking to achieve a framework where these legacy issues can be resolved for those who lost loved ones should be cognisant of the more challenging position of achieving a justice threshold rather than having some type of truth and reconciliation whereby those who were affected by those dark days would be able to find out what actually happened to their loved ones and why,” Boutcher said.

Leo Green, a one-time senior republican, recently told UTV’s View From Stormont:

“I don’t think anyone should go to jail for conflict-related offences and that should apply across the board – not republicans, not loyalists, not British Army, not members of the RUC or UDR, anybody who was involved in the conflict.

“We need to put the conflict behind us,” Green said.

Separately, those calls for a statute of limitations to protect veterans have become and are becoming louder.

Boutcher’s investigation could shovel to the surface some of the ugliest secrets of a so-called dirty war.

“There is a responsibility to get this right, to treat everybody with care and respect,” he said. “This is about getting to the truth for the victims.”

Boutcher knows the challenge of getting to that truth. At the time of his appointment last June he said it would be “a difficult and elusive prey”.

Social share:

About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie


  1. You say the dup and the unionist don’t want the history to be rewritten , well that is fine so long as its a truthful history , going back to 1922 , 1933/5, 1964/68/69/ major Bunting , Paisley, the murder of Peter Ward , Burntollet Bridge , the attack’s on the Bogside 1968/1969 burning of Catholic homes by loyalist 1969, lower falls and Ardoyne the ethnic cleansing of 3000 catholic families all across Belfast , the Shankill butchers, The countless other loyalist / British army murder gangs who murdered innocent Catholics at will ,and this is only the physical force element , and does not take into consideration the institutional violence meted out to the nationalist / catholic community by the ulster unionist from the time off Brookeborough in housing , jobs, education, medical care where our religious ethos was ignored and indeed disrespected as our clergy and religious where spat at on the streets, and our places of worship where attacked etc right up to the present day ( Harryville church )
    So I as a nationalist / republican say to the DUP UUP TUV and the Orange Order , lets have this history lesson lets put it all out there and then lets see who is rewriting history , one final question,Who was it that brought the gun and political violience into Irish politics who was it that by threats of violence and actual violience in the early 20th century created an era of religious and anti Irish bigotry

    A dog that is continually beated will some day bite back !!!!!

  2. Why can’t we move forward and accept that there has been many hurts during this conflict. We’ll never resolve them all. I as a child was burnt out off my home on the oldpark the Bally street’s I crawled down the Oldpark Road on my way home from Finstown school as bullets flew by overhead scary times for a child. Scrapped bodis from the floor at the La Mon. Yes of course people want answers and they are entitled to answers. But we somehow have to meet in the middle if we want to bring investment to the country that we live in for the betterment of the future generation. We need to learn to work together across divides it’s the only way change will happen. I’m not saying forget your history is a part of you its a part of who you are. What I am saying is we can have it and learn to make it work better for us as human beings as one and by having an understanding we can then make things better for the future

Leave A Reply