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Sinn Fein anger over failure to fund 'in limbo' inquests

By Noel McAdam

Published 01/12/2016

Secretary of State James Brokenshire
Secretary of State James Brokenshire

Martin McGuinness has lambasted the Government for not responding to a request by Northern Ireland's most senior judge for funding for long-delayed inquests.

The Deputy First Minister said he was "incredulous" after the appeal from Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan earlier this year was ignored.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, he argues: "The British Government has, at every turn, blocked and frustrated all efforts to reach a resolution.

"In doing so, they have compounded the suffering of victims and survivors and added insult to injury."

His comments came almost two years after the Stormont House Agreement, which featured proposals for a number of bodies. These include a Historical Investigation Unit, an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval, the Implementation and Reconciliation Group and an Oral History Archive.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire hit back last night, saying: "Success or failure does not rest on the UK Government alone. It will not hinge on a national security 'veto'. That simplistic characterisation fails to recognise that the UK Government has agreed to disclose all relevant material it holds to the Historical Investigation Unit."

Sinn Fein and the Government have been at loggerheads over the details of mechanisms for information recovery. But in February Mr Brokenshire's predecessor Theresa Villiers said the Government would "look very seriously" at releasing money to finance the inquests.

Mr Brokenshire added: "The UK Government will continue to engage with victims' groups, political parties and the Executive to build the necessary political consensus to get the Stormont House legacy institutions up and running.

"The Executive and Northern Ireland's political parties must play their part, too. I am confident they will. Detailed work continues to establish new bodies that command support and confidence, as we seek to build a Northern Ireland that works for everyone."

In May the Lord Chief Justice said he was disappointed at the failure of his bid for funding and appealed to the new Executive, following the Assembly election, to urgently resolve the impasse.

Sinn Fein and the DUP also remain deadlocked over a wider package of measures to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, which led to the issue being dropped from the year-old Fresh Start Agreement.

Since last November the two Executive parties have worked behind the scenes, but have still been unable to agree on the definition of a victim.

Funding proposals need the agreement of Mr McGuinness and First Minister Arlene Foster to get on to the agenda for an Executive meeting. But it has been continually blocked by the DUP, which has refused to put the issue on the agenda until Sinn Fein accepts Troubles victims cannot include perpetrators.

Mrs Foster returned to the issue in the Assembly this week when she said: "I await the readiness of others to look at the definition of a victim. Members of my party have tried in the past to have that discussion, but, unfortunately, we have not been able to change the definition.

"However, we live in hope that it can be changed so that people can get what is duly theirs."

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said: "The continued failure to have resources released so that the legacy inquests unit of the High Court can be fully set up and become fully operational is an indictment on anyone in any government who does not support and secure the release of monies without delay."

Belfast Telegraph

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