Belfast Telegraph

Judge orders action on funding of stalled Troubles inquests

By Alan Erwin

A High Court judge yesterday compelled authorities in Belfast and London to reconsider providing funds for legacy inquests in Northern Ireland.

With no Executive currently in place, Sir Paul Girvan said his order would provide civil servants running the departments with certainty about their legal duties.

He also ruled that former First Minister Arlene Foster was liable for costs in a case where she was found to have unlawfully blocked a plan aimed at clearing a backlog of nearly 100 Troubles-related killings.

Setting out his reasons for compelling action, the judge said United Kingdom authorities have failed to effectively deal with delays and shortcomings in carrying out legacy inquests.

With mere declarations held to lack impact in addressing the issue, the point has been reached for more intrusive, coercive steps to address continued breaches of human rights law, the court was told.

Sir Paul said: "In the absence of ministers, where a mandatory order is in place civil servants running the departments will know what their precise legal duty is and will not be restrained or influenced by the belief that they are in some way bound by the actual or potential views of past ministers and/or future ministers."

On that basis he directed the Executive Office, the Department for Justice and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to reconsider their duties in providing extra resources to the Coroners Service for legacy inquests. His final ruling came in a case brought by Brigid Hughes, whose husband Anthony died after being unwittingly caught up in the SAS ambush of an IRA unit at Loughgall in May 1987.

More than 50 legacy inquests remain outstanding, with potentially 72 more cases on the Attorney General's desk for consideration.

Although the Stormont House Agreement includes a £150 million package to deal with all legacy issues, the Government has said financial resources will not be released until political consensus is reached on dealing with the past.

Outside court, Mairead Kelly, whose brother Patrick Kelly was also killed at Loughgall, said the decision was crucial, adding: "We now urgently call upon the respective departments to enforce the order made by the court without any further delay."

Belfast Telegraph

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