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McGuinness calls for inquest funds

Published 24/04/2015

Martin McGuinness said it was up to the Justice Minister and the PSNI to ensure that coroners' courts are adequately resourced
Martin McGuinness said it was up to the Justice Minister and the PSNI to ensure that coroners' courts are adequately resourced

Coroners' courts should be adequately resourced so families can get justice, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister has said.

Dozens of inquests into controversial Troubles deaths are facing delay because of a lack of money and manpower.

Martin McGuinness said : "There is an onus on Justice Minister David Ford and the PSNI to ensure that coroners' courts are adequately resourced to ensure all relatives get access to the truth and justice they deserve."

John Leckey, Northern Ireland's most senior coroner, is retiring later this year and no replacement has been appointed.

Once he leaves, there could be only one coroner in the country.

The long-awaited inquest into the IRA massacre of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill in 1976 is among those affected by the resourcing issue.

A separate hearing for Catholic doorman Seamus Dillon, 45, who was killed by loyalists in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in 1997 has also been impacted.

Mr Leckey said: "I feel for the bereaved families, not exclusively Kingsmill but for other inquests I am involved in. It is a disappointment that is widespread."

The Stormont House political agreement signed before Christmas between the five political parties envisaged a system for dealing with legacy inquests but it has been threatened by Sinn Fein's refusal to implement welfare cuts.

Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein had put forward "concrete proposals" in relation to resourcing the coroners' courts, including judicial appointments as well as dedicated coroners' investigators.

The Sinn Fein MLA said: "This highlights once more the importance of the role of the coroners' courts in holding to account statutory bodies which are trying to obstruct families' efforts to get maximum disclosure about the deaths of their loved ones."

High Court judge Mr Justice Weir is currently hearing an inquest about the loyalist murder of pensioner Roseann Mallon in Co Tyrone 20 years ago.

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