Legacy inquests in Northern Ireland 'can be dealt with in five years'

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image captionSir Declan Morgan has proposed setting up a legacy inquest unit

The Lord Chief Justice has said the remaining legacy inquests in Northern Ireland can be dealt with in five years if he gets the necessary funding.

Sir Declan Morgan proposed setting up a legacy inquest unit with its own staffing and resourcing to deal with Troubles related inquests.

After a review of more than 50 outstanding cases it has been decided that all are suitable for inquest.

Sir Declan says he believes these could start in September.

He met the families of those involved in the legacy inquests on Friday, including relatives of those shot dead by soldiers in Ballymurphy.

The purpose of the meeting was to give the families, supported by their legal representatives, an opportunity to give their views on how best to ensure that all of the legacy cases are progressed as quickly as possible through the inquest system.

Sir Declan said there was "much to be done".

"If we are given the necessary resources and we obtain the full co-operation of the relevant statutory agencies, I am confident that it should be possible to hear all of the remaining legacy cases within about five years," he said.

'Matter of urgency'

"I set out for the families today the way in which I think this could be achieved under the oversight of Mr Justice Colton, as the presiding coroner.

"It is clear that the existing Coroners Service is not adequately resourced to carry the weight of these cases and so we will need to establish a new, dedicated legacy inquest unit as a matter of urgency."

image captionRelatives of those shot dead by soldiers in Ballymurphy were among those who attended the meeting with Sir Declan on Friday

Justice Minister David Ford welcomed Sir Declan's comments on the legacy inquests.

"I am committed to doing all I can to ensure that victims, survivors and families get access to the information, justice and services they deserve.

"My officials are working with the office of the Lord Chief Justice to agree the structure, resources and operational arrangements for a new legacy inquest unit based on the Lord Chief Justice's developing thinking."

Uncomfortable truth

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson also welcomed the move.

"Having consulted with victims and survivor groups throughout Northern Ireland in the last month, it is also clear that balance has to be achieved in the disclosure of information from all parties involved," she said.

"Ultimately victims understand that the truth will be uncomfortable for everyone, but that should not stand in the way of an acknowledgement of what happened in the past."

Ms Thompson said there were three "areas of concern" for victims.

"These areas include the establishment of the HIU (Historical Investigations Unit) to bring a more balanced focus to legacy investigation, implementation of the mental health trauma service and the pension for seriously injured," she said.

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