Belfast Telegraph

Victims of Troubles let down over historical inquests, Irish Government says

The Irish Government has said victims of Northern Ireland's Troubles have been let down.

The Coalition said it "deeply regretted" the lack of visible progress on establishing institutions to deal with the legacy of the bloody 30-year conflict.

The British Government has differences with nationalists over how to balance the need of families to find new information with the official responsibility to protect national security and prevent further loss of life.

Funding to support dozens of inquests into past killings has been withheld amid Stormont divisions.

The Irish Government said: "Having been let down so many times, families such as these continue to wait with ebbing hope."

More than a year has passed since the signing of the Fresh Start Agreement, reached after 10 weeks of intensive cross-party negotiations.

"It is deeply regrettable that in the time since there has been little visible progress with establishing the legacy institutions provided for under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

"The Irish Government shares the deep disappointment and frustration of victims and survivors of the Troubles, from all communities, who have had to wait for far too long for access to truth and justice."

The Government spoke out during a meeting of Council of Europe ministers in Strasbourg.

Legacy institutions agreed following political talks between the British and Irish Governments and the local parties included the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), an independent body tasked with investigating large numbers of outstanding criminal cases connected to the Troubles and stretching back decades.

The Government said: "The Irish Government strongly urges the British Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and all interested parties, to approach this issue with the necessary resolve, leadership and compromise in the period immediately ahead, so that the process can move ahead, the necessary legislation introduced and enacted and the HIU and other legacy bodies finally established."

Legacy inquests are poorly resourced and Dublin expressed acute concern, saying they "offer a critical avenue through which families may seek to finally establish the record of the deaths of their loved ones, most of whom have had to bear their loss for decades now without answers".

In February, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland Sir Declan Morgan proposed the establishment of a Legacy Inquest Unit that could deal with 56 outstanding legacy inquests over five years, and his suggestion has secured considerable support, with the exception of Northern Ireland's largest party the DUP.

The Irish Government urged the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to urgently take all necessary measures to enable the legacy inquest system to conclude effective investigations, which would meet the right to life obligations on the British Government.

"We remain convinced that the institutional framework agreed of the Stormont House Agreement offers the best way of bringing whatever healing is possible to those bereaved and afflicted by the Troubles."

Earlier this year the Government engaged a wide range of victims and survivors groups to widen its understanding of the challenges faced by those directly impacted and said it strengthened official resolve for progress.

"While we acknowledge the continuing engagement by the UK authorities to seek a way forward on the legacy bodies and with legacy inquests, this work will require intensive political engagement, commitment and a spirit of compromise, if victims and survivors are not to be let down once again.

"The Irish Government will not be found wanting in this regard, and calls on the British Government, and the political leaders and parties in Northern Ireland, to renew and redouble their efforts in the period ahead."

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