Irish Republican News · May 7, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Victims’ anger as inquest plan is spiked by Stormont
Victims’ anger as inquest plan is spiked by Stormont

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Amnesty International has accused the Stormont Executive of denying justice by blocking funds for a series of inquests into conflict-related killings.

DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed she had vetoed funds for a backlog of inquests connected to the conflict, while Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness declined to say if he had been aware of Foster’s action.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s director in the Six Counties, said: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The inquests are connected to direct state killings such as the Ballymurphy massacre of 1971, when British soldiers shot dead 11 civilians, the ambush of eight IRA men at Loughgall, but also many acts of state collusion, such as the loyalist murder of GAA official Sean Brown in County Derry

The North’s Chief Justice, Declan Morgan, signed off a request for funding for the inquests, which cover about 80 deaths, but this request was blocked due to DUP opposition on the Stormont executive.

Mr Corrigan criticised that decision. “Here we have scores of families who have been denied even inquests for decades now into the deaths of their loved ones,” he said.

“They deserve those inquests, have a right to them, and such rights shouldn’t become bargaining chips in some kind of political game and that seems to be what’s going on,” he added.

The issue arose in a television debate before Thursday’s assembly elections after it became public earlier in the week.

Foster said she was surprised that the business of the Stormont executive was being discussed in the news, but defended the decision to block the cash for the inquests.

“There has been an imbalance in relation to state killings as opposed to paramilitary killings,” the first minister said.

DUP Deputy leader Nigel Dodds later said the inquests would cost too much.

“This proposal would have cost more than anticipated and would have seriously impacted on the ability of the Executive to address the needs of innocent victims,” he said.

FAMILIES HIT OUT

Briege Voyle, whose mother was shot by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in August 1971, said it was “another slap in the face to victims’ families”.

“This is a disgrace. Arlene Foster is effectively preventing the truth about 95 deaths,” she said.

“Is she now saying she doesn’t want the truth coming out about what happened to two police officers and innocent civilians from both unionist and nationalist communities murdered by paramilitaries?”

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said the British government has a responsibility to fund legacy inquests.

“It needs to face up to its responsibilities and provide adequate funding for legacy inquests and investigations so families can have access to truth,” he said.

Among those who welcomed the announcement of the inquests at the time was the daughter of Joseph Corr, who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre.

“The Lord Chief Justice really gave the families in the room that day hope, and there wasn’t just the Ballymurphy families, there were loads of victims,” said Eileen McKeown (pictured). “We really felt on a high that this man, the Lord Chief Justice, was on our side.”

She said the news was very disappointing for the families of victims.

“People have to put themselves in our situation,” she said. “We get one step forward and then ten steps back.

“When we saw the Hillsborough families last week on the news, as before when we saw the Bloody Sunday families, every time we see that happening we think our inquest is going to be next. Then the British government steps in, and the executive, and knock it all for six.”

Joseph Corr’s son was with him on the day he was killed. He is now seriously ill in hospital and the family fears this delay means he will not see the outcome of the inquest.

“We don’t think he has much longer to live,” said Michael Corr. “I always promised him that before he died, the Ballymurphy case would be closed. Now I feel as if I am letting him down.”

© 2016 Irish Republican News