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NIO is letting down Troubles victims, claims David Ford

By Angela Rainey

Published 08/02/2016

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

Justice Minister David Ford has accused the Northern Ireland Office of letting down Troubles victims by exploiting failures in the Fresh Start agreement.

The claim follows a statement from an NIO spokesperson who said money could only be released to deal with the past if there was a deal to establish new institutions.

Mr Ford said that this was an issue that was left "completely untouched" when the agreement was signed between the two governments, the DUP and Sinn Fein and has "halted essential work on the past".

Mr Ford claims he highlighted to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers multiple times since November that the justice system was not funded to deal with past issues.

"Failure to provide funds earmarked by the Treasury as long ago as December 2014 is simply punishing the justice system for the failings of others," he said.

"Theresa Villiers made a deal with the Irish government, Sinn Fein and the DUP without including the suggested institutions on the past.

"There was not even any way proposed to deal with the past, and victims were badly let down.

"Now the NIO seems to be using that failure as an excuse to refuse to fund essential work being done on the past.

"If legacy issues are not dealt with properly, it will be the British government, not the Department of Justice, that has to answer questions in Strasbourg."

Mr Ford's comments coincide with a meeting between the Secretary of State and a victims' group today at Stormont Castle.

Four members of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), will meet Ms Villiers and senior officials to urge an investigation into areas that suffered what the group called "ethnic cleansing of the border".

Kenny Donaldson is a director of the Lisnaskea-based group which represents victims of terrorism. He said he will challenge politicians to commit finances to legacy investigations. "Innocent victims of terrorism can do maths better than many politicians; the government has committed £150m over a five-year period to dealing with 'The Past'," he said.

"The figure suggested for the 'Stakeknife' inquiry is £35m, Loughgall something in the region of £13.5m and each Article 2 case in the coroner's queue is expected to cost an average £1.5m.

"When these are added together, there isn't much left out of the original £150m allocation."

"SEFF will be directly challenging the Secretary of State to explain where innocent victims and survivors of republican and loyalist terrorism feature in the resource allocation."

Mr Donaldson said that Co Fermanagh has suffered one of the worst clearance rates for crimes committed by republican paramilitaries, with less than 10% of cases resolved.

He said the people of Fermanagh were persistently targeted because they were "law abiding and God fearing people, who did not believe in retaliation".

And now, he said, they are demanding answers and accountability from the "state they thought would protect them."

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