Arlene Foster ‘in error’ over deferred bid for extra legacy inquest cash – judge

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Former Stormont first minister Arlene Foster mistakenly deferred a bid for extra funding for inquests into historic killings in Northern Ireland, a judge said.

She erroneously believed the £150 million earmarked by the British Government as part of the Stormont House Agreement should await the outcome of an overall package dealing with all legacy issues, Belfast High Court judge Sir Paul Girvan added.

He said more work was needed before the Treasury could approve the proposal and cautioned unlimited public funds were not available.

The judge said the obligation on the state to investigate deaths during the conflict remained whether or not devolved Government was restored.

He said: “She (Arlene Foster) was in error in concluding that it was legally proper to defer consideration of the funding issue because in the absence of an overall package the provision of additional funds to deal with the systemic delays in the legacy inquests would favour victims who were not innocent as against innocent victims of the Troubles.”

He said Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley was responsible for overseeing the functioning of Government and added there was a political vacuum.

He said: “The relevant parties must reconsider the question of the provision of additional funding in light of the fact that finding a resolution of the funding issue cannot be postponed until an outcome to a political agreement on other legacy issues.”