Orde speaks in PFC
Chief Constable of the PSNI, Hugh Orde was introduced on Monday evening in the PFC to a reasonably sized crowd of academics, students and members of the public (including those involved with victim's groups arising from the 'Troubles')to speak on a topic which was readily recognised as an emotive and controversial one. His talk entitled 'Policing the Past to Police the Future' was centred on public enquiries and the contentious topic of State collusion.
The emphasis throughout was on the "high expense" of the said enquiries. A statistic of £2 million a year in staff and legal costs alone was given. Sir Hugh questioned why there should be a "hierarchy of death" recognising that there are only a select few deaths being investigated in this way and due to the sheer number of victims over the past thirty years the stark reality is that many cases will never be solved.
Mr Orde stressed his view that all groups on all sides who were involved in the violence of the past should be called to account and made to answer the difficult questions which he feels are currently being unfairly directed at the Police force and the State. He also referred to widows of RUC officers and other groups whom he feels are being neglected. Although promising that he would " ensure all material in my organsiation will be made available to all the enquiries" he suggested that compensatory schemes for victims and their families would perhaps be a more cost effective way of dealing with the issue.
When asked by Professor Brice Dickson whether there should perhaps be a general enquiry into state collusion he again reiterated that there were others to blame for Northern Ireland's troubles and said "It must be remembered that the vast majority of people were killed by terrorists". It was suggested by a member of the audience that the State was shirking its responsibilities here with an apparent failure to recognise its automatically higher level of responsibility to protect its citizens.
Although there was a small protest staged throughout the speech it was a silent and undisruptive one which Judge David Smyth QC (chairman of the debate which followed) allowed to continue in the name of free speech. He recognised the success of the evening saying "A few years ago this wouldn't have been easy, if possible" and he praised the virtue of the rule of law and the freedom of speech in open debate.