Northern Ireland’s top judge wants Troubles inquests fast-tracked

Posted By: September 06, 2016

Lord chief justice urges Stormont government to fund special unit to deal with backlog of inquests relating to republican and loyalist killings

Henry McDonald. The Guardian. Monday 5 September 2016 

Northern Ireland’s most senior judge has demanded the creation of a special unit to deal with a backlog of inquests into some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles.

Sir Declan Morgan, the region’s lord chief justice, said the power-sharing executive at Stormont should fund the new unit.

No inquests have yet been held into dozens of killings, including the shootings of republican terror suspects and civilians by the police and British army. There are also cases in which allegations have been made of collusion by security forces in loyalist murders, and of British agents operating within the republican movement.

Speaking at the start of the new legal term in Northern Ireland, Morgan described the slow pace of inquests into these deaths as “hugely disappointing” and said a dedicated unit operating over five years was needed to cope with the backlog.

“I therefore call again on the local executive and legislature, and on the UK government, to play their part as a matter of urgency. We cannot move on while we remain under the shadow of the past. Nor should we. But time is not on our side,” he said.

Morgan said if the inquests could not be scheduled within five years then it could be decades before they were held.

“It is impossible to see how the issue of legacy can be moved forward politically without progress having been made on the new legislation and in the absence of a clear assessment of the costs involved in implementing all of the elements of a legacy package,” he said.

Victims organisations say there are 57 legacy inquests that need to be held, relating to about 100 killings during the Northern Ireland Troubles.