Barra McGrory insists decision to leave job 'absolutely not because of legacy'

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By Maria McCann

Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions has insisted he has not been forced out of office over controversial legacy cases.

Barra McGrory QC said he regrets that the legacy issue "has become the story" of his tenure and admitted that dealing with cases related to the Troubles was "an unanticipated aspect of the job".

Mr McGrory said he had always intended to leave the post after five or six years to go back to practising at the Bar.

Announcing his intention to step down in September Mr McGrory insisted his decision was "absolutely not because of legacy".

Mr McGrory has faced a storm of criticism over the prosecution of former soldiers for killings during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Earlier this month unionists called for his resignation after prosecutors re-instated attempted murder charges against ex-soldier Dennis Hutchings, 75, over the 1974 shooting of John-Pat Cunningham.

Previously, a judge had said there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge against Hutchings.

Mr McGrory said the legacy issue is going to be a difficult one for any prosecutor to deal with.

"If all of the legacy controversy had not happened we would still be having this conversation," said Mr McGrory.

He added: "My heart lies in the representative role. I left that with the intention of returning to it. (I have) absolutely not been pushed out because of legacy.

"Legacy is going to be difficult for any prosecutor because the conflict will be relived in some senses. All decisions will be viewed through the prism of the different communities' views."

Mr McGrory also said he "regrets that legacy has become the story of my tenure here".

He added: "It was an unanticipated aspect of the job.

"I wish the political architects of the peace process had dealt with legacy."

Mr McGrory became the first Catholic to hold the post of Director of Public Prosecutions when he was appointed in November 2011.

He said it has been "an honour" to lead the PPS.

He added that if he had his time over again he "would not have approached the job any differently".

A competition to appoint his successor will begin in the near future. The appointment will be made by the Attorney General.

Sources close to the director said that hopefully the next prosecutor will not receive "some of the personal abuse" that Mr McGrory had.

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