NI secretary James Brokenshire: Troubles inquiries 'not working'

James Brokenshire Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Police are re-investigating all deaths during the Troubles

The Northern Ireland secretary of state has said inquiries into killings during the Troubles are "disproportionately" focused on the police and the army.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph James Brokenshire said it was "clear" that investigations into more than 3,500 deaths were "not working".

Police are re-investigating all deaths from the Troubles.

A number of ex-soldiers are facing prosecution over killings carried out during the 30-year conflict.

'Past rewritten'

Mr Brokenshire, who took the post last July, said: "It is also clear the current focus is disproportionately on those who worked for the state - former members of the Armed Forces and the RUC."

He said the "vast majority" of police and the armed forces served "with great courage, professionalism and distinction".

He added: "We are in danger of seeing the past rewritten."

The Legacy Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is re-investigating Army killings as part of a review into all deaths during the Troubles.

Image caption A firebomb destroyed shops in Armagh in 1974

More than 3,500 people died between 1969 and 1998, of which 302 were killed by members of regular regiments of the British army.

London law firm Devonshire said it was representing between 10 and 15 former soldiers facing prosecution for a number of killings, including those on Bloody Sunday.

The firm said it been told there could be as many as 1,000 former soldiers facing prosecution.

Barra McGrory QC, the director of public prosecutions for NI, recently told the BBC a number of cases had been coming to court due to inquests and referrals from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

He said: "We have taken decisions in three army cases recently, one was not to prosecute and in the other two prosecutions have been initiated."

Mr Brokenshire's comments have been criticised by both Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

'Totally wrong'

Speaking in west Belfast, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said: "He's totally wrong, the fact is - and including in this parish that we're standing in, just 100 yards from here - citizens were killed by British forces. Those citizens have a right to truth."

The SDLP's Alex Attwood said: "Coming in the wake of the respective comments this week of the lord chief justice and the director of public prosecutions, the timing and content of views of the secretary beggars belief."

However, unionists welcomed Mr Brokenshire's intervention.

"The secretary of state is correct when he says the current system is not working and he must now act decisively to address this. We want no more prevarication and no veto handed to Sinn Féin," the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said.

Danny Kinahan, of the Ulster Unionist Party, said: "I was really pleased to see the letter acknowledging that there's an imbalance in how the soldiers are being treated and that it's got to be dealt with. There's a huge imbalance at the moment."

The Alliance Party's David Ford said: "Politicians have a duty to support the impartial operation of the institutions of the justice system. The comments from James Brokenshire on prosecutions come perilously close to interfering in the rule of law."

Kenny Donaldson, a spokesman for Innocent Victims United, welcomed Mr Brokenshire's comments, which he said "merely reflected a statement of fact".

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