A JUDGEMENT in the High Court which has ruled former First Minister, Arlene Foster, unlawful in her decision to block funding for legacy inquests, has been welcomed by victims’ families.
Sir Paul Girvan said the former First Minister had been wrong to think that she could postpone a decision on funding for inquests until after a political agreement on dealing with the past.
He went on to say that it was unlikely money would have been released if the issue had been discussed by a Stormont Executive.
A call for the Stormont Executive, the secretary of state and others to arrange funding of legacy inquests was rejected on the grounds that the court could not “direct government on how to spend public funds”.
Mairead Kelly from the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign said she was delighted with the decision which was taken following a case lodged by Brigid Hughes.
Mrs Hughes’ husband Anthony was shot by the SAS when he was innocently caught up in the Loughgall police station ambush in 1987.
“It was Mrs Hughes who took this case, but the importance of it will have a direct impact on the 55 families who have been waiting to have inquests into the deaths of their loved ones held,” Mairead Kelly said.
“This is a crucially important judgement on so many points and we will be sitting down to study the ruling in detail during the coming days and weeks. But the clear requirement emerging from this is that there must now be something put in place to ensure that the outstanding inquests are held. The estimate is that five years will be needed to achieve this, and we have to remember that many families have now been waiting for four decades.
“We trust that this judgement will put an end to the blocking of the release of funds and will enable our inquests to progress immediately,” she added.
Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, called for the release of funding and said that the judgement vindicated the long campaign by victims and survivors.