Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy massacre families win battle over right to challenge for inquests funding

The families of ten people shot dead by soldiers in west Belfast 45 years ago have won High Court permission to challenge the withholding of funding for inquests into the deaths.

Lawyers for the Ballymurphy families were granted leave to seek a judicial review against the Stormont Executive and the British Government.

They claim the continued refusal to release resources is thwarting a five-year plan devised by Northern Ireland's most senior judge to deal with a backlog of tribunals into Troubles-related killings.

Barrister Fiona Doherty QC argued: "These legacy inquests have been sucked into the pernicious politics of this jurisdiction.

"Its time for the court to exercise it's constitutional role and uphold the rule of law."

Legal proceedings were issued on behalf a daughter of one of the civilians shot dead in Ballymurphy over a three-day period during the introduction of internment in August 1971.

A separate action is being taken on behalf of the families of eight IRA men ambushed and killed by the SAS at Loughgall, Co Armagh in May 1987.

Both challenges are aimed at securing an order for the release of money required to hear all outstanding legacy inquests.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has called for urgent action to fund his blueprint for having all cases dealt with within five years.

With the cost of the plan estimated at around £10m, the government has said resources will not be released until a political agreement is reaching on dealing with the past.

In court today counsel for the Stormont Department of Justice and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said he was not opposing leave to seek a judicial review in the Ballymurphy proceedings.

Tony McGleenan QC accepted that an arguable case worthy of further consideration had been raised.

He also confirmed no instructions had been provided by the third respondent in the case - the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Ms Doherty emphasised how the Lord Chief Justice's plan represents "extraordinary progress" from his previous warning that legacy inquests could be continuing in 2040.

She contended that it was now time for the government to intervene.

"This is a particular situation where the refusal of the devolved administration to do what they are duty bound to do is at such a stage now... that it's time for the Secretary of State to step in," she added.

Following submissions Mr Justice Maguire ruled that he was granting leave to apply for a judicial review in the Ballymurphy case.

He adjourned the Loughgall challenge for lawyers to refine the points being made in the papers.

With issues over managing a wider range of inquest-related court actions, the judge has yet to decide which will be the lead case to deal with the issues raised.

He explained: "I'm looking for a vehicle that can be heard swiftly and will not be caught up in a long period of gestation."

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