Some information about British state killings during the conflict can never be made public because it would “put lives at risk”, British Direct Ruler James Brokenshire has declared.
The British government has repeatedly raised “national security” and a lack of available funds for reasons not to hold inquests into the killings, some of which are believed to be war crimes.
However Mr Brokenshire told the London parliament this week: “National security remains the primary responsibility of the UK Government and (in) our actions we will certainly continue to have that at the forefront of our minds”.
He has also insisted that it is only when there is agreement between the parties that funds for inquests can be released, a stance which victims and their families have described as using the deaths of their loved ones as bargaining chips.
The dispute is just one obstacle blocking efforts to restore the power-sharing government between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) at Stormont. Victims, including a group representing 10 people killed by soldiers in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971, held a protest at the delay at Stormont on Wednesday.
They urged politicians engaged in power-sharing talks at Stormont not to enter government until there is agreement on addressing the legacy of the past.
Supporting the families, Sinn Fein’s leader in the north, Michelle O’Neill, accused Mr Brokenshire and the British government of “hiding behind” so-called security concerns.
“These families have the right to an inquest. It should not be subject to a political veto,” she said.
But in the Westminster parliament, Brokenshire agreed that some information is “so sensitive that it can never go out into the public domain”.
SUPREME COURT PETITIONED
Despite the block on inquests, efforts are continuing to secure justice for victims. A legal battle to secure the quashing of previous verdicts on the SAS ambush of two IRA Volunteers is set to go to the Supreme Court in London, it has been confirmed.
Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew died after an SAS unit opened fire on them at farm buildings near Loughgall, County Armagh in October 1990. In May 2012 an inquest jury found the killings were justified.
The widow of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane is also to take her legal fight for a public inquiry into his murder to the Supreme Court. Her direct petition for a hearing in London comes after judges in Belfast refused to revisit a decision to refuse a public inquiry.
Mr Finucane was shot dead by a gang of British agents and unionist paramilitaries in front of his wife and three children at their north Belfast home in February 1989. A public inquiry has been promised as a result of talks agreements dating back some 15 years.
Mrs Finucane’s lawyer, Peter Madden, confirmed plans to lodge an application at the Supreme Court in London next week.