Northern Ireland

David Ford criticises Northern Ireland Office over funding for legacy investigations

David Ford
Image caption David Ford said it was time the government 'lived up to its responsibilities'

Justice Minister David Ford has criticised the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) after it said no more funding would be made available to deal with police investigations into crimes of the past in NI.

First Minister Arlene Foster had asked the Northern Ireland Secretary for extra funding for the PSNI.

She believes more money is needed by police for legacy investigations.

Mr Ford said it was time the government "lived up to its responsibilities".

He said he had told Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers "several times" since the Fresh Start deal that Northern Ireland's Justice system is "not funded to deal with the past".

"Failure to provide the funds earmarked by the Treasury as long ago as December 2014 is simply punishing the Justice system for the failings of others," he said.

"Theresa Villiers made a deal with the Irish government, Sinn Féin and the DUP without including the suggested institutions on the past.

"There was not even any way proposed to deal with the past, and victims were badly let down. Now the NIO seems to be using that failure as an excuse to refuse to fund essential work being done on the past.

"If legacy issues are not dealt with properly, it will be the British Government, not the Department of Justice, that has to answer questions in Strasbourg.

Image caption First Minister Arlene Foster had asked Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to consider releasing extra funding for the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland)

"The Justice system is carrying out its duties. It is time that the government lived up to its responsibilities and no longer let down the Justice system and, more important, victims."

'Stakeknife'

Mrs Foster believes more financial support is needed by police for legacy investigations.

These include cases such as the activities of the Army agent known as Stakeknife. That case alone could cost £35m. Earlier this month, Mr Ford said this investigation must be funded centrally by the government.

The inquiry, which is expected to be the largest ever in Northern Ireland into the activities of a single individual, is re-examining about 50 Troubles related murders.

Chief Constable George Hamilton told the BBC's The View that it is likely to cost in the region of £7m per annum "when it gets up and running at full tilt."

In a statement, an NIO spokesperson made clear no extra funding would be provided.

It said that any such investigation "is a matter for the PSNI", adding: "It is the Department of Justice and the wider Northern Ireland Executive who have the responsibility for funding the PSNI."

The statement stressed a need for political consensus to deal with all aspects of Northern Ireland's past.

It said the government "has made it clear that there is an additional £150m available over five years to support new bodies to be set up to investigate the past".

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