Belfast Telegraph

DUP 'unaware' of Sinn Fein deal progressing legacy funding if no agreement in talks reached: Arlene Foster

Sinn Fein claims DUP 'aware' of deal with British Government on legacy funding

By Jonathan Bell

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her party was not aware of a deal on inquest funding going ahead if there wasn't agreement between them and Sinn Fein on getting the Stormont institutions back up and running.

It comes after Sinn Fein claimed a deal was done on securing legacy funding with the British Government and of which the DUP leadership was aware.

In a statement, Arlene Foster said: "No one in the DUP was aware of inquest funding being progressed in the absence of an overall agreement or a decision to advance all elements of the Stormont House Agreement.

"It would be astonishing if the Government granted funding for legacy inquests in the absence of an overall agreement to progress all elements of the Stormont House Agreement.

"It is a matter of public record that Sinn Fein has been talking to the Government about progressing legacy inquest funding.  I was aware of this during the Talks. We were also talking to the Government about matters of importance to us.

"I will be raising this matter with the Secretary of State.”

On Thursday evening's BBC The View programme Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said funding for inquests for Troubles killings was agreed with UK government officials.

The Government, however, has said talks with the parties were based on them reaching an agreement.

Mr Kelly also claimed the deal would have omitted any statute of limitations to curb security force prosecutions.

The policing and justice spokesman said he had proof of his party's agreement with the government to release inquest funding and wanted to see it implemented.

"There are victims and survivors waiting, some of them over 45-46 years, give them some respite," he said.

Senior judges have called on funding to be provided in order to allow them to complete the proceedings.

During the programme, however, the DUP's justice spokesman Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was "unaware" of the deal.

On Friday morning, Sinn Fein's Declan Kearney insisted the DUP leadership knew of the talks on the matter.

He said: "The DUP leader Arlene Foster and the negotiation team did know that this agreement had been made with the British Government.

"The Irish government were cited upon the agreement between Sinn Fein and the British Government that the legacy funding should be released."

A UK Government spokesperson added: "All discussions with parties were in the context of how the UK Government would respond in the event of an agreement.

"Regrettably there was no agreement. This Government has set out clear commitments to take forward the Stormont House Agreement legacy institutions, and to support inquest reform.

"As Secretary of State made clear on Tuesday, she will be consulting on how to implement Stormont House legacy institutions as soon as possible. The Government announced, in 2014, £150 million to support legacy reform in Northern Ireland." 

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