Villiers hints she may release £150m to help authorities handle Troubles cases

IRA members at a funeral in 1985, attended by Martin McGuinness.
IRA members at a funeral in 1985, attended by Martin McGuinness.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has indicated she is willing to release some of the £150 million earmarked for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

She came under pressure from Labour to ensure the PSNI and coroners office receive extra funding to help deal with responsibilities connected to the Northern Ireland conflict.

Ms Villiers told the Commons she will take “very seriously” a request to provide cash for inquests if a “credible” reform package is put together.

An agreement on how to deal with the past has not been reached despite progress in other areas of policy.

Ms Villiers made the remarks during the second reading of the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill.

The proposed legislation seeks to implement parts of two political deals aimed at protecting Northern Ireland’s faltering power-sharing administration.

This includes an Independent Reporting Commission on paramilitary activity, changes to ensure Assembly members challenge paramilitary activity and to ensure the amount of UK Government cash required for the Northern Ireland budget is outlined to the Assembly.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Vernon Coaker, addressing legacy issues, said victims must be at the heart of any agreements.

He called for an “urgent look” at the resources available to the PSNI and the coroners’ service to support investigations and speed up inquests, noting: “More and more delay for victims is unacceptable.”

Mr Coaker added: “I very much agree with the First Minister and others in Northern Ireland who have pointed out that notwithstanding that agreement has not been reached on how to deal with the legacy issues, the PSNI, the coroners’ office and others are still required to deal with the consequences of these issues.”

He urged giving some of the money to relevant bodies now.