Coroner sees optimism in plans for Irish police

Kingsmills survivor Alan Black at a memorial to his murdered workmates in 1981
Kingsmills survivor Alan Black at a memorial to his murdered workmates in 1981

A coroner has welcomed the publication of draft legislation in the Republic concerning gardai giving evidence to inquests in Northern Ireland.

The development emerged at an inquest into the Kingsmills massacre, when 10 Protestants were fatally shot in 1976.

The issue of gardai not giving evidence has been raised as a matter of concern in a number of historic inquests, particularly those which occurred close to the border and may have resulted in cross-border movement of suspects.

The Kingsmills inquest has previously sought unsuccessfully to hear evidence from Gardai staff.

In April this year, the inquest heard that Irish authorities had told the coroner’s representative that they did not have a legislative basis to compel gardai to leave the jurisdiction to attend a court in Belfast.

On November 22, the Irish government published the draft “Criminal Justice (International cooperation) Bill 2017”, which aims to – among other things – “respond to the needs of coroners in Northern Ireland and Britain dealing with legacy cases to access testimony from An Garda Siochana”.

Coroner Brian Sherrard said on Friday that whilst it is “early days” the move is “a matter of some optimism”, and said the bill’s text is “worth reading”.