Legacy issues in Northern Ireland need to be addressed – Brendan Smith TD

stormont

Communities and families who suffered so much in Northern Ireland and indeed some in our own State need to have legacy issues addressed.

The implementation of legislation arising from commitments in the Stormont House Agreement and the Fresh Start Agreement should be prioritised.  Of course the absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland has been unhelpful as well.

The Secretary of State Karen Bradley MP should be aware of these commitments, should withdraw the baseless comments she made in the House of Commons today and apologise, without delay, to all those innocent families whom she has hurt so much.

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For Written Answer on : 05/03/2019
Question Number(s): 239 Question Reference(s): 10808/19
Department: Justice and Equality
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
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QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the implementation of legislation arising from commitments in the Stormont House Agreement and the Fresh Start Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that work is at an advanced stage on legislative measures to contribute to delivery on the Government’s commitments, in relation to the framework of initiatives to address the legacy of the troubles, agreed in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

In November 2017, the Government approved the drafting of the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Bill.  This Bill will further facilitate cooperation with the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), which is to be established by the British Government to investigate unsolved troubles-related killings, and other inquiry mechanisms.  It should be noted that the Authorities here are already in a position to cooperate with the HIU, once established, in its criminal investigations through existing mutual legal assistance arrangements.

In addition, the Bill will provide for measures to further enhance ongoing cooperation with the Northern Ireland Coroner in troubles-related inquests.  The general scheme of the Bill is available on my Department’s webpage and drafting is at a very advanced stage.  I expect to be in a position to publish this Bill before the summer recess.

My Department, with close cooperation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is also working on a General Scheme for a Bill to establish the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR).  The ICIR will be a cross-border institution which will be established to receive information on troubles-related deaths and to prepare a report on the circumstances of the death for the families of the victims.  The ICIR will require legislation to be enacted in both jurisdictions with parallel provisions.  The Deputy will be aware that the British Government is currently analysing the submissions received during last year’s public consultation process on the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework.  My officials are in contact with their counterparts in Northern Ireland on the outcomes of this exercise.  Nonetheless,  I would expect to seek the approval of the Government to draft our ICIR legislation in the near future.

Dealing with the legacy of the troubles on this island is a difficult and complex task. The Government remains fully committed to giving effect to the measures agreed in the Stormont House Agreement.  While the political impasse in Northern Ireland has delayed the roll-out of these measures, the Government will continue to work with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland to seek the re-establishment of the Executive.