Sinn Féin to meet Sir Declan amid increasing pressure on government to fund legacy inquests

Sir Declan Morgan
Sir Declan Morgan

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O’Neill will meet the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, today to discuss funding for legacy inquests.

It will be Ms McDonald’s first meeting with Sir Declan since she became leader in February.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Ms O’Neill warned that any delay by the UK government in approving the financial ask for legacy inquest funding breach a High Court ruling.

In March, Mr Justice Paul Girvan ruled that former First Minister Arlene Foster had unlawfully prevented a paper on legacy inquests from going before the Northern Ireland Executive for consideration.

The High Court judge held that there was an obligation on State authorities to ensure that the Coroners Service could effectively comply with Article 2 irrespective of whether an overall package was agreed.

He therefore ruled that NI departments and the NI Secretary must reconsider the provision of additional funding for legacy inquests.

Ms O’Neill said: “I contacted the Department of Justice to provide an update on its plans to progress legacy inquests and the processes are well underway to prepare the inquest funding bid.

“I am concerned however that the department is saying that ‘consideratipn of the bid for legacy inquest funding, once submitted, will be a matter for the UK government’.

“I have told the British Secretary of State Karen Bradley that any delay in approving the financial ask for the Lord Justice’s legacy inquest would be unacceptable and would undermine and breach the direction from the Hughes judgement.

“I have asked for a clear commitment that the financial ask submitted by the Department of Justice will be resourced in full and that Karen Bradley detail her time frame for approving the ask.

“Families have already been waiting far too long for answers - some of them almost half a century - so this work must be prioritised as a matter of absolute urgency.”