Legacy cash could be released as part of talks deal

The �150m was agreed in 2015 but has not been released because of a failure to agree on how to deal with legacy issues
The �150m was agreed in 2015 but has not been released because of a failure to agree on how to deal with legacy issues

As talks at Stormont continue Secretary of State James Brokenshire is understood to be considering a request to release the £150m pledged to deal with legacy issues.

When the Stormont House Agreement was reached in 2015, the Treasury agreed to make £150m available over five years so that the legacy of Northern Ireland’s troubled past could be addressed.

None of the money pledged has been forthcoming because of a failure to agree on how legacy issues would be dealt with, but it would appear another bid to have the cash released has been tabled as part of a possible deal.

The News Letter understands that the victims’ commissioner will be at Stormont on Wednesday to meet with DUP leader Arlene Foster about immediate consultation on legislation for Troubles legacy bodies, another signal that legacy issues could be key in any deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The News Letter asked the DUP for confirmation that a request had been made to release the pledged legacy cash, but no response was forthcoming at the time of going to press.

The BBC has reported that Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy also refused to confirm or deny that funding for Troubles legacy issues was under discussion when asked on Tuesday.

Reconciliation activist and lawyer Trevor Ringland said the £150m is of no use without a promise that legacy issues will be dealt with “properly”.

He said: “Just producing a big figure of £150m is all very dramatic but what I’d like to hear first and foremost from everybody is a clear statement that we’re going to deal with the past properly.

“The key is we teach our young people that the use of violence is wrong and unjustified. It’s not whataboutery. It’s letting everyone see the impact of the Troubles.

“If I hear that from them then I’ll know they are going to deal with the past, otherwise it’s just talking big figures without genuine intent.”

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, said the most important job of a legacy body would be “for us to have a confidence that terrorism is going to be held accountable”.

He said: “We’ve said repeatedly to James Brokenshire that there is no trust left in the victims of terrorism, they’re not going to walk up stairs where they can’t see a landing. The blind trust is over. It’s now about seeing the absolute minutiae of the package before we would ever countenance giving it support.”