Taoiseach under pressure over victims meeting

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

A STORMONT minister has slammed the Irish Government for issuing eight months of “holding replies” to requests for a meeting with IRA victims – while giving “almost immediate access” to other Troubles victims.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said yesterday that he had been “continuously” asking for a meeting with the Taoiseach’s office for eight months, but to no avail. He is requesting Enda Kenny meet the families of 10 Protestant workmen murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976.

In November, the Taoiseach angered many unionists when, on his first visit to Belfast as Irish premier, he pledged to back a campaign for a full public inquiry into the UFF murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

At the time, former UUP leader Lord Empey said Mr Kenny was ignoring “thousands” of Ulster people who will have no inquiry into the murders of their loved ones.

Yesterday, Lord Empey’s party colleague Mr Kennedy lost patience and went public to complain that he had not been able to secure a meeting with the Taoiseach for border IRA victims, despite trying since June 2010.

“I am getting increasingly concerned that there has not been a definite date pencilled in or confirmed for the meeting,” Mr Kennedy told the News Letter.

“And I have obviously seen that other people can gain almost immediate access on ‘the past’ and victims’ issues.”

He first asked for a meeting in June 2011, after the publication of a HET report into the Kingsmills murders.

“I have been in continuous contact with the Taoiseach’s office and Department of Foreign Affairs ever since. And in spite of promises and holding replies they have not confirmed a date for a meeting. It is beginning to reflect badly on them.

“We need at least an acknowledgement of the failure of successive Irish Governments to deal with the terrorist problem on the south Armagh border. We need an expression that this happened and that it will not happen again.”

Last week, English MPs from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee were angered by Mr Kennedy’s insistence that the IRA campaign against unionists in south Armagh had amounted to “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing”.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said: The Taoiseach met with Geraldine Finucane and members of her family on one occasion, during his visit to Belfast on 17th November 2011, immediately prior to the Aisling Awards at the Europa Hotel.

“The following day, the Taoiseach met in Armagh with minister Danny Kennedy at his request to discuss victims of killings in the south Armagh area.”