Inquest funding problems need to be sorted out: lord chief justice

The Sinn Fein delegation speaks to the media after their meeting with Sir Declan Morgan
The Sinn Fein delegation speaks to the media after their meeting with Sir Declan Morgan

Northern Ireland’s lord chief justice said the lack of resources available to him to hold inquests into the deaths of more than 50 people killed during the Troubles must be addressed.

Sir Declan Morgan issued a statement over three months after High Court judge Sir Paul Girvan ruled that the UK has failed to deal with delays in carrying out legacy inquests.

He said he recognised the disappointment felt by families waiting for fresh inquests into the deaths of their loved ones, and said the issue of resources must be addressed.

Sir Declan previously asked for additional funding to complete the 54 outstanding legacy inquests into 94 deaths within five years.

The statement was issued following a meeting which Sir Declan had with Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald over legacy inquests and the provision of resources for the lord chief justice’s five-year plan.

“I recognise the disappointment felt by the families that since we met in February 2016 we have only been able to make very limited progress in dealing with the outstanding legacy inquests,” Sir Declan said.

“The important matter now is to address the issue of resources and ensure we move as quickly as possible to provide a resolution on the remaining cases.”

Sir Declan’s office added that he is happy to meet with any political party over this issue, or any other.

Speaking after the meeting Ms McDonald said resources for the legacy inquests must be released.

“We recorded our absolute dismay that in respect of legacy inquests, particular families have been left for decades no answers,” she said.

“We believe it’s an affront in any open democratic system that monies would be withheld for the purposes of carrying out these inquests.

“The chief justice has been very proactive in these matters. He has a plan which is human rights compliant, that is workable, and now it needs resourced.

“We want to reiterate again, in the clearest possible language, that the delays, the foot dragging, the equivocation, the indifference to these families must stop. The necessary resources must be made available.”

A government spokesperson said: “The government continues to support reform of the legacy inquest system.”

Ms McDonald was accompanied to the meeting by Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill and North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly.

They also met with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton on Monday.