Belfast Telegraph

Resources for legacy inquests must be released: Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill has called for progress for legacy inquests, almost three months after the High Court found Arlene Foster was wrong to defer discussion of a bid for extra funding.

In March, it was found the former First Minister had unlawfully stopped Stormont discussion of a funding plan aimed at clearing a backlog of legacy inquests.

Despite rejecting claims of discrimination, Sir Paul Girvan said: "The decision to refuse to put the paper on the agenda was procedurally flawed."

Delivering his verdict on a challenge mounted by the widow of an innocent civilian shot dead along with eight IRA men, he also found that a "systemic delay" in dealing with Troubles-related killings is impacting on her human rights.

On Friday, Sinn Fein's O'Neill said: "It is now almost three months since the court ordered the British Secretary of State, the Executive Office and the Department of Justice to reconsider the refusal to provide the required funding and to take steps to ensure that legacy inquests take place.

"There is an onus on the British Secretary of State to immediately release the resources and Sinn Fein will continue to press Karen Bradley to do so."

Earlier this month a public consultation on the legacy of the Troubles was launched by the Government, and will run until September 10.

It came after controversial comments from Prime Minister Theresa May that the current system for investigating the past in Northern Ireland was "patently unfair".

It is understood the legacy consultation document includes proposals for an Historical Investigations Unit.

Mrs O'Neill added there was also a responsibility on the Department of Justice to progress its work.

"Families have already been waiting far too long for answers - some of them almost half a century - so this work must be prioritised as a matter of absolute urgency," she said.

A Northern Ireland Department of Justice Spokesperson said: “The department has received a letter from Mrs O’Neill which we are currently considering.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "The Government supports reform of the legacy inquest system in line with the Lord Chief Justice's proposals."

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