Belfast Telegraph

Irish government publishes draft law for police to testify in Northern Ireland

The Irish government has published draft legislation which would allow police there to give evidence to inquests in Northern Ireland.

The development emerged at an inquest into the Kingsmill massacre, where a coroner told the court he welcomed the move.

Members of the Gardai (Irish police) are currently legally prevented from giving evidence in Northern Irish courts.

The issue has been raised as a matter of concern in a number of historic inquests into killings from the Troubles, particularly those which occurred close to the border and may have resulted in cross-border movement of suspects or exchanges of police information at the time.

The inquest into the deaths at the Kingsmill massacre has previously sought unsuccessfully to hear evidence from Gardai staff.

Last week, a draft bill was published by the Republic of Ireland's Justice Department which would allow Gardai to do participate in inquests in Northern Ireland.

Coroner Brian Sherrard welcomed the draft bill, telling a preliminary hearing of the inquest: "Obviously this is hot off the press and is a matter of some optimism for dealing with cross border inquests in any event.

"Many bills never see the light of day of course and it's early days. But I certainly would commend the overall scheme."

He added: "It is worth reading and perhaps we can discuss the details at a later date."

Ten Protestant workmen were killed at the massacre in 1976 in south Armagh, when the vehicle in which they were travelling was stopped by IRA gunmen. It is thought that the culprits may have fled over the border in the immediate aftermath of the killings.

No one has ever been convicted over the attack.

A further preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 2nd February 2018.

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