Senior judge is right to voice concern over delays in legacy cases

Posted By: February 05, 2017

Distributed by Irish National Caucus

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Saturday,  January 28, 2017 

The Lord Chief Justice, in a speech to the Victims and Survivors Forum yesterday, made no attempt to mask his considerable dismay at the lack of progress in dealing with legacy cases in Northern Ireland.

Sir Declan Morgan’s exasperation was apparent in the tone of his remarks, saying that the past 12 months have been `a wasted year.’

He added that we are now in a `period of inaction’ that will carry through until the end of March at the very least and it is unclear when there will be an opportunity to move forward.

This was a deeply disheartening message for the victims and survivors of our troubled past to hear but it is not the first time that the north’s most senior judge has spoken out on this issue.

Once again, Sir Declan expressed disappointment at the lack of a response to his request for funding but rightly pointed out that this is an even greater blow for families who have already been waiting decades in some instances.

The DUP is being blamed for blocking funds and it is notable that the party is now trying to divert attention away from RHI and instead is trying to make the potential prosecution of British soldiers who served during the Troubles an election issue.

The Lord Chief Justice rejected any suggestion that he was giving priority to cases holding the state to account rather than paramilitaries, insisting that he is determined to deliver outcomes for all victims and survivors.

This week, another senior legal figure, Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory, also hit back at those questioning his impartiality amid claims that a `witch-hunt’ is being pursued against ex-military personnel.

As Mr. McGrory pointed out, there have been only three decisions involving former soldiers in recent times, two resulting in prosecution and one that did not.

Comments by former Tory minister Gerald Howarth, who used parliamentary privilege to accuse Mr. McGrory of `supporting’ Sinn Féin, are deeply disturbing.

For families waiting for truth and justice, further delays in resolving these important matters are profoundly dispiriting.

Hopes had been raised after a senior judge reviewed legacy cases and the judiciary took control of these much-delayed inquests.

It is politics, not the legal system, which is blocking progress.

Sir Declan said yesterday that in the absence of additional resources for a Legacy Inquest Unit, it would be decades before all outstanding cases are completed.

This is plainly unacceptable, and it is imperative that the legal authorities are allowed to get on with this work.