Legacy inquest families present legal challenge to Stormont and Westminster

September 26, 2016

Relatives of more than 30 people killed during the Troubles have called for the government to release £10m of funding requested by the Lord Chief Justice for a five-year plan to hear all of the legacy inquests.

The bereaved relatives are taking legal action against the British government and Stormont Ministers  for what they say is a breach of international human rights laws by their ongoing failure to release the funding to pay for a new unit to deal with the outstanding legacy cases.  On Thursday last the families hand-delivered notice of the challenge to the offices of Secretary of State James Brokenshire at Stormont House in Belfast as well as similar letters to the offices of First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and to Stormont’s Department of Justice.

The 56 legacy cases involve 95 deaths, some of which date back more than 40 years, and include killings by police officers and soldiers, and others where there are allegations of collusion. Several of the deaths were carried out by the notorious Glenanne Gang based in south Armagh, and include the murders of the Reavey brothers, the bombing of Donnelly’s Bar in Silverbridge,  the bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk, the shooting of the O’Dowds at Guilford, a non-fatal car bomb attack of Tully’s Bar in Belleek, the bombing of the Step Inn Bar in Keady, the bombing and shooting at the Rock Bar in Granemore and the bombing and the shooting of the Miami Showband.

In February, Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, proposed that a specialist unit be set up that could deal with the cases within five years.  Sir Declan requested the money be released before an overall agreement is reached on how to deal with the past, but the request was blocked by First Minister Arlene Foster, who refused to sign off on the bid.

Earlier this month, the Lord Chief Justice expressed his disappointment at the stalling of the inquests and said there is a legal obligation on the UK government and the Stormont Executive to ensure that the inquests are heard.

Padraig Ó Muirigh, a lawyer for the families said Westminster had ignored Sir Declan’s warning and were in breach of their legal obligations.

The notified parties have now 14 days to respond to the pre-action letters. If they do not act to address the delays, the action will proceed to court.