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Money concerns holding up inquests

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 05/02/2016

The cash-strapped Department of Justice does not have enough money to progress dozens of outstanding legacy inquests, a Stormont scrutiny committee has heard.

Justice Minister David Ford revealed his officials were at loggerheads with the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) over the allocation of £30m set aside by the Treasury to deal with Northern Ireland's toxic past.

He said: "I am absolutely confident that the department does not have the money to do what is required."

A major review of 56 cases which include killings carried out by both paramilitaries and security forces has been ordered by Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, who took over presidency of the Coroners Court last November.

Sir Declan has acknowledged the current system is "not fit for purpose", highlighting that only 13 legacy inquests have been heard in 10 years. Only three have been heard since 2012.

Mr Ford added: "There have been discussions between the department, the chief justice and the chief constable and others in terms of resourcing issues to step-up the tempo of the inquest system.

"I have made the point to the Secretary of State that the Treasury has earmarked up to £30m a year for five years.

"Her position is that that is dependent upon new institutions being set up."

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