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DUP leader Arlene Foster: Why I blocked plans to speed up Troubles probes

Inquests 'skewed' towards killings committed by State

By Cate McCurry

Published 04/05/2016

The bullet-riddled minibus in which 10 Protestants were massacred in Kingsmills on their way home from work in 1976
The bullet-riddled minibus in which 10 Protestants were massacred in Kingsmills on their way home from work in 1976

First Minister Arlene Foster has defended her decision not to sign off on a plan to deal with a backlog of inquests into some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles.

The plan was put on hold after the Executive failed to agree a request for funding at its last meeting in March.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan wanted more than £10m to fund his proposal.

Dozens of outstanding legacy inquests involving more than 80 deaths were due to be heard.

They included the Kingsmills massacre, in which the IRA murdered 10 Protestant men in January 1976, and the 11 people shot dead by soldiers in Ballymurphy in 1971.

In March, Sir Declan Morgan said he believed all could be heard within five years.

However, a proposal to ask Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to release the Government funding failed to even make the agenda of the Executive's last meeting in March.

Speaking on the BBC NI election debate last night, Mrs Foster said she wanted more discussion first.

"Unfortunately a lot of innocent victims feel that their voice has not been heard recently and there has been an imbalance in relation to state killings as opposed to paramilitary killings," she said.

"I was rather concerned about this story because the paper did come to OFMDFM (Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister) and I felt that I needed more discussion around it.

"I was rather surprised to hear that Executive business was being talked about on the news. I wanted the opportunity to discuss further with the Lord Chief Justice around the issues with innocent victims and how we can deal with their issues and I make no apologies for that. I think the rights of innocent victims are very key in this and I will not allow any process to rewrite the past."

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DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds also said the proposal would have impacted on the ability of the Executive to address the needs of innocent victims. He also suggested it was too expensive.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said he was "extremely disappointed" at the decision.

"Bereaved family members have already been made to wait for decades for a proper investigation into the deaths of their loved ones," he said.

"To snatch away the prospect of an inquest, after decades of delay and denial of justice, will only add to victims' sense of betrayal.

"Putting right this wrong must be the number one item on the agenda at the first meeting of the new Northern Ireland Executive after this week's election."

Briege Voyle, whose mother was one of those shot dead by soldiers in Ballymurphy in August 1971, said it was a "disgrace".

"Even with the support of Sir Declan Morgan trying to make some progress with his proposal to move the system on, this is another slap in the face to victims' families," she said.

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