NI: Victims’ families call for resources for legacy inquest unit

Darragh Mackin
Darragh Mackin

The families of victims represented by KRW Law have called on the Secretary of State to free up resources for the dedicated legacy inquest unit proposed by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.

Darragh Mackin, a solicitor at the firm, told Irish Legal News that the families had been “enthused by the Lord Chief Justice’s comments on Friday past”.

Sir Declan Morgan told an unprecedented meeting of victims’ families and senior judges that inquests into 56 legacy cases, relating to the deaths of 97 people, could be completed within “about five years”.

However, he said that would only be possible if “the necessary resources are put in place and we obtain the full co-operation of the relevant state agencies - principally the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Ministry of Defence”.

Sir Declan called on the Northern Ireland Executive to approach the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for funding in order to establish a dedicated legacy inquest unit.

Reflecting on Sir Declan’s speech, Mr Mackin said: “It was made abundantly clear that the process, as it currently stands cannot and will not discharge the article 2 obligation imposed on the state through the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The Lord Chief Justice has however made it clear that he intends to implement drastic changes to ensure that the Coronial System to which those families are subject, satisfies and discharges the obligation that is undoubtedly imposed upon it.

“Such changes include the appointment of independent investigators, the creation of an electronic archive system to approaching those cases where there are allegations of a state practice, on an overarching and thematic basis. One cannot overstate the significance such changes will have on the running of the legacy related inquests.”

He added: “It is now well established that many cases raise serious questions about a wider state practice of collusion, whereby agents of the state acted in tandem with paramilitaries in carrying out mass murder.

“For the first time, the Lord Chief Justice has given an express indication that those cases that serious raise questions about a wider state practice will be investigated through the prism of the inquest, in trying to ascertain the ‘bigger picture’.

“Without doing so, run the risk that the inquest verdict would not be complete. Such a significant development for those families bereaved as a result of same cannot be overstated.

“The families for whom we act, urgently call upon the Secretary of State to make available the funds to which the Lord Chief Justice so requires, to ensure that the model to which he has carefully developed can be implemented without any further delay.”

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