Donaldson did not know of Sinn Féin side deal over legacy inquests

Gerry Kelly says deal agreed over statute of limitations for the prosecution of soldiers

Jeffrey Donaldson said  he was not aware of a  deal between Sinn Féin and the British government over the release of funding for legacy inquests. Photograph: PA

Jeffrey Donaldson said he was not aware of a deal between Sinn Féin and the British government over the release of funding for legacy inquests. Photograph: PA

 

DUP justice and legacy spokesman Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP has claimed he was not aware of a side deal between Sinn Féin and the British government over the release of funding for legacy inquests.

The senior DUP politician was speaking on BBC politics programme The View on Thursday night with Sinn Féin justice spokesman Gerry Kelly MLA.

Mr Kelly spoke about there being an agreement between his party and the British government, prior to the collapse of the Stormont talks on February 14th, over a statute of limitations for prosecution of soldiers being removed from the legacy consultation.

He said Sinn Féin had a commitment that the consultation would be put out to the public and money from the £150 million (€170 million) fund agreed in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement for the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) to examine legacy inquests (some relating to deaths over 40 years ago) would be released.

In 2016 LCJ Sir Declan Morgan requested £10 million to fund a five-year programme of inquests into some of the most controversial killings of the conflict in the North.

Mr Donaldson said he was unaware of the side deal on funding legacy inquests.

“I am our party representative on legacy issues and I can tell you know I am certainly not aware of and was not aware of the government agreeing with Sinn Féin that they were going to hand over money for inquests,” he told The View.

Mr Kelly responded that “to say the DUP, whatever about Jeffrey, didn’t know about this is erroneous.”

On February 15th, at a Sinn Féin press conference the day after the DUP collapsed the talks, Mary Lou McDonald had mentioned Sinn Féin receiving a commitment from the British government to put out the consultation on legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House and to release the funding requested by the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests.

In the days that followed journalist Brian Rowan reported the same detail on the Eamon Mallie wesbite plus extra information about the statute of limitations for British armed forces being removed from the legacy consultation.

On Friday Sinn Féin national chairman Declan Kearney said DUP leader Arlene Foster knew about Sinn Féin’s deal with the British government.

The DUP has not directly denied the party knew about the side deal but said it was not a surprise parties were talking to the British government about progressing issues of interest to themselves.

A DUP spokesman said: “Not surprising both sides talk to the government about progressing issues of interest to themselves during negotiations.

A statement from the Northern Ireland Office said all discussions with parties was around how the UK government would respond in the event of there being a deal to restore powersharing.