DUP 'unaware' of money for legacy inquests

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said it would be "astonishing" if the Government granted funding for legacy inquests without an overall agreement.

No one in the DUP was aware of the issue being progressed, she added, without a previous deal addressing other elements of Northern Ireland's violent past being implemented.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly claimed funding for coroner probes into disputed conflict deaths was agreed during recent talks on resurrecting Stormont powersharing. They dissolved in acrimony last week without a deal.

Mrs Foster said: "No one in the DUP was aware of inquest funding being progressed in the absence of an overall agreement or a decision to advance all elements of the Stormont House Agreement.

DUP leader Arlene Foster.

"It would be astonishing if the Government granted funding for legacy inquests in the absence of an overall agreement to progress all elements of the Stormont House Agreement."

She said it was a matter of public record that Sinn Féin has been talking to the Government about progressing legacy inquest funding.

She added: "I was aware of this during the talks. We were also talking to the Government about matters of importance to us.

"I will be raising this matter with the Secretary of State (Karen Bradley)."

Sinn Féin's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said: "The British Government did commit to releasing the inquest funding and to go ahead with the consultation, minus the amnesty proposal for British State Forces.

"That represents positive progress towards the implementation of commitments from the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.

"The British Government should never have been using victims as bargaining chips in the negotiations and they now need to implement their agreement, release the funds immediately and start the consultation."

The Government said all discussions with Northern Ireland's parties were in the context of how it would respond if there was a deal.

A spokeswoman added: "Regrettably there was no agreement."

She said the Government has set out clear commitments to take forward the Stormont House Agreement legacy institutions and to support inquest reform.

"As the Secretary of State made clear on Tuesday, she will be consulting on how to implement Stormont House legacy institutions as soon as possible."

In 2014 the Government announced £150 million to support legacy reform in Northern Ireland.

In 2016 Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan requested cash be released as he outlined plans to address a major backlog in inquests.

- PA


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