FOLLOWING the findings of the Police Ombudsman over the Loughinisland Massacre, SDLP Leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said there must be legislation on the definition of collusion to strengthen the Police Ombudsman’s Office and enable the community to deal with the tragedies of the past and move to the future.
Ms Ritchie was speaking during a Stormont motion calling for restoration of confidence in the Office of Police Ombudsman on Monday.
She said, “The failure of the Ombudsman to reach the conclusion of collusion in the Loughinisland Report has piled more grief and hurt onto the families of those murdered.
“The Police Ombudsman refused to work with Judge Corry’s definition of collusion, collusion by omission: the authorities turning a blind eye.
“Despite the Police Ombudsman’s Office being governed by 38 separate pieces of legislation, he has a free hand to decide on which definition of collusion will be applied to any inquiry.
“Restoring confidence in the Ombudsman’s Office can only be done by strengthening of the office in a manner that will copper fasten its independence.
“An agreed definition of collusion, agreed by this Assembly and legislated for would be a major step in safeguarding future Police Ombudsmen from the potential of interference and political pressure.
“We will not have a united community unless we can have confidence that the tragedies and questions that hang over our past are being dealt with in an independent and equal manner. We cannot have the pursuit of justice altered every time the Ombudsman changes post and the goals posts on the definition of collusion shift.
“We cannot progress, without dealing with the past. Reform of the Ombudsman’s Office and the legislation governing it is essential if we are to ensure the independence of this office and community confidence in dealing with the past. I believe the first step is to legislate on the definition of collusion,” added Ms Ritchie.