When he took up office earlier this week, Simon Byrne, the new Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland appealed to the British government to lift the force’s obligation to deal with the past.
He said the PSNI is not resourced or best equipped to resolve that legacy, one which involves 60 detectives investigating around 1,200 killings.
Even if the British government wanted to grant his request a Court of Appeal ruling in Belfast yesterday made that impossible.
The PSNI was ordered to conduct an independent investigation into long-standing allegations state collusion with a loyalist murder gangs blamed for more than 120 sectarian murders. Anticipating any other outcome would have been fanciful as lifting that responsibility would be seen as another act of collusion in a saga that has festered for decades.
It is always important to establish the facts around inter-communal violence. Not doing so leaves room for uninformed or half-informed suspicions which inevitably sustains the division that led to the murders in the first place. The passage of time makes a question more relevant than it was three or four decades ago when the crimes were contemporary rather than historical.
When conclusions are reached what can be done with them? It is hard to think that using them to sanction old men or women will help, like Simon Byrne advocated, to build a better future. Time to forgive and move on.