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Ex-RUC officer to lead investigations in new Troubles legacy body

The ICRIR, which will take over hundreds of unresolved Troubles cases from next May, is being created by the government’s legacy Bill that is awaiting royal assent.

The former senior police officer set to lead investigations in a new Troubles legacy body accepts that his appointment will "not be to everyone’s liking" but says he's driven by the desire to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Peter Sheridan is to become commissioner for investigations at the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR), of which Sir Declan Morgan will be the chief commissioner.

It has been created as a result of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill that has now passed through both the House of Commons and Lords despite vociferous opposition.

This legislation will give a limited form of immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences to former terrorists who co-operate with the ICRIR, alongside preventing future civil cases and inquests.

The creation of the ICRIR marks the end of a years-long discussion regarding which body would investigate such matters. 

One proposal, namely the formation of a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), was panned by former RUC officers and the Police Federation for Northern Ireland. 

A perceived difficulty with pressing charges amid changing investigative standards, adequate staffing and concerns over a "parallel police service" were among the criticisms raised.

Now Mr Sheridan, as commissioner for investigations, will be responsible for the supervision of reviews and deciding if there should be a criminal investigation. He will have police powers.

He said: “This is going to be a big challenge and I don’t underestimate that challenge. I fully acknowledge I will not be to everyone’s liking in this but I stand on my own reputation.

“The only way that people will come to this is if we make it work and that victims and survivors feel they are getting the answers that they deserve.”

As for his RUC past, Mr Sheridan added: “It is not unusual in the divided nature of this society that will be the case with people, but I have spent the past 15 years in peace and reconciliation crossing all of the divides to want to make this a better place.

“My career in policing was largely in Derry/Londonderry and it was in uniform, I wasn’t involved in any of the legacy cases. But I can’t take away that I understand for some people it will be an issue and I fully recognise that.”

Sir Declan said Mr Sheridan, whose history was "considered very carefully" during the selection process, had assured the panel of his suitability. In any case, a specific conflict of interest policy is currently being developed. 

The investigatory arm of the commission is expected to adopt practices from Operation Kenova.

Mr Sheridan, who was the most senior Catholic officer in the PSNI when he retired from policing, will take up the role in December.

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