Northern Ireland

PSNI Historical Enquiries Team agency budget cuts - political reaction

PSNI budget cuts of £50m this financial year will "effectively mean the closure" of the Historical Enquiries Team that investigates Troubles-era killings, the police have said.

More than 300 temporary agency posts will close at the end of the year as the PSNI is not renewing its contract with Grafton Recruitment.

The police said the "difficult but necessary" decision was made because it has to cut £50m, 7% of this financial year's budget.

Politicians in Northern Ireland have been reacting to the announcement.

Jonathan Craig, DUP Policing Board member

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"The latest impact of the failure to implement welfare reform is the investigation into historical crimes.

"The public can now see across government how the actions of the SDLP and Sinn Féin are impacting the public.

"The biggest impact will be on those families who are awaiting a report into the death of their loved one. This will compound the hurt for many families who are still awaiting their case being reviewed.

"There have been well-documented problems relating to the operation of the HET, that does not change the fact that these cuts will mean investigations into past crimes will come to a virtual standstill."

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin Policing Board member

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"A loss of jobs is always unfortunate - I have to say however that Grafton Recruitment has in its own workforce over 70% male Protestants, so they were not the best people to handle this kind of contract in any case.

"The HET of course is something which was a complete disaster, which had great difficulties in the fact that it was handling different types of victims and survivors in different ways.

"Its brand is toxic now, so within nationalism there'll be no great disappointment in the fact that they are no longer working.

"I think this is an issue which should not be brought forward by police. As a party we're against the HET process in the first place. "

Dolores Kelly, SDLP Policing Board member

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"The scandal involved in the rehiring process had been highlighted in an assembly report by the Public Accounts Committee, so this decision will be welcomed and viewed, by many, as the end of a lucrative gravy train.

"However, what the SDLP is most concerned about is the absence of any truth recovery process that meets the needs of victims.

"Whilst the HET had lost the confidence of victims, and many victims' groups, it was the only show in town. Coupled with the financial pressures now faced by the Office of the Police Ombudsman, we are very concerned that dealing with the past now has no champion.

"Victims have been let down and promises made under the Good Friday Agreement to victims and victims' groups have not been honoured.

"The protagonists of the conflict - the terror organisations and the British government - must give a fulsome and honest account of their wrongdoings."

Terry Spence, Police Federation chairman

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"The savage economies that the PSNI has to make in a relatively short span of time meant drastic and draconian decisions had to be made.

"This is a disaster for police funding and will call into question the ability to deliver a proper police service.

"I accept the priority has to be keeping our community safe, but doing away with the Historical Enquiries Team is a matter of deep regret to this federation.

"We are also very concerned about the loss of 300 temporary jobs. Those jobs will still have to be done and that will mean diverting frontline officers to desk posts.

"In an organisation that is already badly stretched, under-staffed and under-resourced, this is a short-term and potentially very damaging move."

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