New £55m initiative to address backlog of Troubles inquests

Legacy Inquest Unit to be established under Northern Ireland’s lord chief justice

The remains of a digger used in the bomb attack on Loughgall RUC station in 1987. Photograph: Pacemaker

The remains of a digger used in the bomb attack on Loughgall RUC station in 1987. Photograph: Pacemaker

 

The North’s Department of Justice has announced new measures to deal with a large backlog of legacy inquests relating to Troubles-related killings.

The department plans to release £55 million over six years to deal with 52 legacy inquest cases relating to 93 deaths.

Previously, the Northern Ireland lord chief justice Declan Morgan had requested £50 million from the Northern Executive to address the backlog but this was blocked by the then DUP first minister Arlene Foster.

Now, in the absence of a minister for justice, Peter May, permanent secretary of the justice department, has announced that a Legacy Inquest Unit will be set up within the coroner’s service to process legacy inquests. The unit will come under the remit of Mr Morgan.

The announcement also relates to the 2015 legal case of Brigid Hughes, whose civilian husband, Anthony, was killed by the SAS along with eight members of the IRA at Loughgall, Co Armagh, in 1987.

She demanded that the issue of inquests be treated separately from political plans under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement to address legacy matters in a wider manner.

Decision welcomed

“In the Hughes judicial review judgment, the court ruled that progress on securing funding for legacy inquests should not be linked with agreement on the overall legacy package but taken forward as a separate issue,” said Mr May.

“This initiative takes account of that judgment and will support a significant expansion of capacity to clear the outstanding legacy inquests over the next six years,” he added.

Mr Morgan welcomed the decision. “Legacy inquests have an impact on bereaved families, those who have served in the police and armed forces, other state agencies; and very often the wider communities in which these deaths occurred,” he said.

“I am pleased that funding is now going to be provided to implement the plan for dealing with legacy inquests which I proposed over three years ago.”