Irish Republican News · November 26, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Brokenshire condemned by UN for blocking inquests


Britain’s governor in Ireland, James Brokenshire, has come under renewed pressure to accept responsibility for dealing with the legacy of the conflict in the North.

A freshly-published report by UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff, coupled with a Pat Finucane Centre advertising campaign criticising the British government, have intensified public demands for movement on truth and justice issues.

Despite pledging that addressing legacy issues was one of his key priorities, Brokenshire has pursued an agenda of cover-up, obfuscation and denial.

Plans to deal with the past have been included in various talks agreements over the years. However, the British government continues to cite “national security” while blocking funding for historical inquests.

A hard-hitting UN special rapporteur’s report this week concluded that concerns over so-called national security could not override Britain’s obligations to provide information about the past. Human rights expert Pablo De Greiff’s report also echoes calls for the Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan’s plan on legacy inquests to be resourced and implemented.

Last month, Brokenshire’s office indicated that he wanted to shift the process to a “more public phase”, suggesting a public consultation on implementing legacy issues was imminent. However, more than five weeks later and on the one-year anniversary of the most recent talks deal, there has been only been more excuses. He said his government will not be “rushing to artificial deadlines and timescales” on the issue.

Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney said the remarks were “despicable”. He pointed to the recent revelation that a British army file into the controversial McGurk’s Bar bombing is being kept secret for another forty years.

“There is only one conclusion to be drawn... the British government is mocking victims’ families and the silence of the Irish government on this issue is deafening.”

He said it was a political scandal that the British government is playing for time on the issue. “As more time passes family members are beginning to die. Important witness evidence is being lost,” he said.

He said funding was needed for legacy inquests, which were a roadmap to finding a solution for many families.

“All the political parties in the north, civil and human rights advocates and campaigners, and the Irish government should be working together to bring pressure to bear upon the British government to release these funds, and to meet its obligations,” he said. “The families deserve no less.”

The SDLP said Brokenshire should “hang his head in shame”. SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said: “He meets and then he does not listen and then he does not live up to his responsibilities under international law,” he said.

Members of more than 30 families recently launched a legal action against the Stormont Executive and British government to force the release of legacy funds.

It is being taken in the name of Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was shot by the Army in 1971 in an episode relatives refer to as the Ballymurphy massacre, and accuses the Stormont administration and the British government of being in breach of international human rights laws.

Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said a British precondition for yet another agreement at Stormont, with the consensus of the DUP, is seen by victims as a stalling mechanism.

“There was no consensus on policing, or prisoner releases, there was no consensus from DUP on the Good Friday Agreement, but what there is a consensus on is that families want to see a properly financed, independent investigations unit to take up were the flawed HET (Historical Enquiries Unit) left off,” he said.

“The sense of anger, frustration and despair among victims is palatable, they feel abandoned and like they simply don’t count...

“The behaviour of British government on this issue has been abysmal. It must be noted if we don’t deal with this issue now then we are going to sow the seeds of division for years to come, you cannot leave an open sore in a genuine peace process.”

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© 2016 Irish Republican News