Proposal on Troubles prosecutions ‘difficult’ for families - Kenny
Taoiseach says debate must take into account possibility of developments in forensic science
Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was killed in the 1987 IRA Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. File Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today a proposal by Northern Ireland’s attorney general to end prosecutions in Troubles-related cases would be hard for families to accept.
John Larkin QC, the chief legal adviser to the Stormont Executive, said he also favoured ruling out further inquests and other state investigations into the crimes committed during the 30-year conflict, insisting a line should be drawn on offences perpetrated before the signing of the Belfast agreement in 1988.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Mr Kenny said he respected the AG’s view but warned that it would be hard for victims and their families to accept.
“The question of the past is difficult, because it is dealing with victims in on all sides of the atrocities,” Mr Kenny said.
“I don’t think it would be helpful of me to comment on the personal submission made by the Attorney General in Northern Ireland, who is in statutory office, and I have to respect his views in this context.
“I think it would be difficult for families on either side of the dark time in Northern Ireland if you were to follow, for instance, that advice and put in place what the Attorney General recommended.”
Mr Kenny said the debate surrounding the AG’s views must take into account the possibility of developments in forensic science.
“If you were to find subsequently incontrovertible DNA evidence of the involvement of person or persons in the killing on either side,” he said.
“Families want closure, but there’s always that yearning to find out what happened, who gave the instructions, why was this done?”
Earlier, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said the needs of the victims and their families had to be the priority in dealing with historic cases.
“I think, when you are talking about what happened in the past, I think our first priority has got to be the victims and their families,” he said.
“There is already an agreed way for dealing with pre-‘98 cases. I have not yet heard a convincing argument for changing that.
“I think the wider issue for dealing with the past, I think we have to do that in the context of Haass (talks) and I think that is the place where this needs to be discussed, where we get an overall framework for dealing with issues of the past but one which puts the victims and their families and those who are traumatised - and there were many of them - at the centre of what needs to be done.”
Mr Gilmore also said he accepted the practical difficulties in pursuing historic cases.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the proposal would be “closely examined” by the Department of Foreign Affairs but that any decision would have to take the views of those who were affected by violence during the troubles into account.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to actually examine the speech in detail,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“My expectation is that this will be examined in great detail by the Department of Foreign Affairs (and) by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
“Certainly, in any discussion of this, the interests and the responsibilities that we have to the families of victims and to those who died and who were injured will have to also be a very, very, important part of the discussion.”