It is vitally important for the future of Northern Ireland that a stable and lasting peace be firmly established. As stated in the Good Friday Agreement, the tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering. We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. In the context of the “Together: Building a United Community” initiative by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Northern Ireland Assembly will shortly establish an All Party Working Group under an Independent Chair to consider and make recommendations on issues that cause community divisions, including Dealing with the Past.
The HET has an important role to play in ensuring that the families of all of the victims of violence in the past can pursue the truth of what happened to their loved ones, and it plays a significant part in the pursuit of justice. I am aware of the comprehensive Inspection Report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary into the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team. I believe it is essential that the HET operate to the highest standards of effectiveness and impartiality, so that the people of Northern Ireland – and in particular, the families of the victims whose cases are being reviewed – can have confidence in it. Consequently I welcome Chief Constable Baggott’s acceptance of the Inspection Report’s Recommendations and his commitment to work with the Policing Board on ensuring their delivery.
I am glad to inform the Deputy that there is close and ongoing co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI on all aspects of policing. The two police forces have in place a joint Cross Border Policing Strategy which has as its aims to improve public safety throughout Ireland, to disrupt criminal activity and to enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island. The Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI who have responsibility for operational policing co-operation have repeatedly emphasised that the close and high quality co-operation between their forces has been instrumental in preventing attacks, combating criminality and saving lives.