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A murdered child's family deserves much better than this

By Paul Connolly

Published 26/06/2015

Murdered: Arlene Arkinson
Murdered: Arlene Arkinson

The stoicism of the family of Arlene Arkinson is as humbling as it is impressive. It will be 21 years in August since Arlene, from Castlederg, was abducted and murdered after a night out at a disco in Co Donegal.

She was last seen with convicted child killer Robert Howard. Eleven years later Howard was acquitted of her murder.

Her family has endured a seemingly endless series of legal marathons, the latest this week when, as the Belfast Telegraph reported, yet another attempt to hold an inquest was adjourned.

Arlene's sister Kathleen was in Belfast Coroner's Court. Afterwards she said: "We have waited this long, we might as well wait another two months. As long as I get there in the end. I will never give up, never." The sheer inability to hold a proper inquest into Arlene's death is, in my opinion, a serious and significant breach of the Arkinson family's human rights. States are mandated to provide prompt, effective and transparent investigations into suspicious deaths.

Can you imagine the outcry anywhere else in the UK if an inquest was prevented into the murder of a 15-year-old schoolgirl? Newspapers, MPs, legal chiefs, the Home Secretary would be up in arms. There would be a legal inquiry, a parliamentary inquiry, questions to the PM and all the other splendid checks and balances of democracy.

Instead, as in so much else, Northern Ireland limps along with no effective oversight. There is barely a whimper about the Arkinsons' plight: a failed system with no will and precious little heart.

After 21 years, Kathleen Arkinson is still there, doing her duty to her poor, dead sister. Why can't the State do the same for Kathleen?

• The remodelling of Northern Ireland's councils is still causing some, shall we say, mild confusion. Earlier this month, as a reader correctly pointed out, we referred to "North Down and Ards" council area when, of course, it should be "Ards and North Down" (hat-tip David Stewart).

I say of course, but it's not of course. All but the geekiest of followers of the local political scene would be hard pushed to name each council.

Unluckily for me, I live where three of the old borough councils bump up against each other: Carrick, Newtownabbey and Larne.

Nowadays Carrick and Larne have joined with Ballymena to create a Mid & East Antrim council, and Newtownabbey merged with Antrim to become Antrim & Newtownabbey.

Locals, however, still talk about "Carrick Council" or "Larne Council" or "Newtownabbey Borough Council" to complain about unemptied bins, stray dogs or those other little vagaries that make life unpleasant but where your council does make a difference.

One rarely sees all the new council names together so, at huge expense, for the benefits of yourself and the Belfast Telegraph's sub-editors, here's your free handy ready-reckoner to the 11 new titles (and God help me if I've got any wrong):

District councils: Fermanagh and Omagh; Derry and Strabane; Mid-Ulster; Newry, Mourne and Down.

Borough councils: Antrim and Newtownabbey; Ards and North Down; Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid & East Antrim.

City councils: Belfast City Council; Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council.

City & borough council: Armagh City & Banbridge & Craigavon Council.

All of which begs some questions: why did some get/retain borough status? Why is Derry and Strabane a "district", not a "borough". Or even a "city and Borough"? Which city is Castlereagh part of?

Perhaps an enlightened reader can provide an explanation.

Belfast Telegraph

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