POLITICIAL WRANGLING AND THE MATTER OF MONEY TO FUND THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH FOR VICTIMS OF THE CONFLICT IN THE NOTH OF IRELAND
KRW LAW LLP represents many victims of the Conflict in the North of Ireland. These include relatives of the dead and survivors. None of these people are getting younger. They have turned to lawyers such as ourselves as they consider that there is no satisfactory mechanism available which can provide the truth, justice and accountability they search for. Therefore, they go to the courts in that quest. Their expectations that the British government would assist them in their quest have been consistently let down over the years since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 1998 until the recent failure of The Stormont House Agreement 2014 to agree a way forward on the issue resolving the tragic out-workings of the Conflict, a past which determines our present and informs our future.
Since the failure of the 2014 Stormont House talks the question of money has become core to the weary debate which our clients observe with despair. Money cannot bring back a loved one or replace limb, but it can be put to use to fund systems to deliver truth about “Why?” And this not mere a plea for compassion but rather for hard “Why?” questions to be confronted by all the parties to the Conflict who inflicted death and suffering.
And it is a “Why?” which not only has a moral imperative but also a political imperative as these answers will assist in moving forward from our past. It is a “Why?” which is a legal imperative in that the human rights violations inflicted during the long course of the Conflict when there is alleged British government involvement demands a human rights compliant mechanism of inquiry.
This is point made very strongly by international bodies such as the UN, the European Commission and the US Congress. And money cannot be used as an excuse to either bribe to obtain a political agreement in order to salve the impasse or to deny the right to such an inquiry.
Money was ‘set aside’ under the Stormont House Agreement 2014. Money has been ‘saved’ because the PSNI HET has been closed. There is an unsightly political spat between Stormont and Westminster as to who bears the financial burden here. We contend that it must rest with Westminster as the signatory to the 1998 Agreement, as the signatory to the ECHR 1950 and as the government responsible during the period of Direct Rule. The abdication of this financial responsibility or the use of financial carrots and sticks for purpose of achieving local political consensus is wrong. There enough money available to make compensation to the security constituency following the 1998 Agreement.
The Chief Constable, the Minister of Justice and obliquely the Lord Chief Justice as President of the Coronial Court, have all requested money to resolve the Past.
If the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland can conclude her speech on 11 February 2016 saying “We owe victims and survivors nothing less” then “owe” means money – it means delivering on the hard of truth of “Why?” stripped of the political rhetoric she used in her speech and implemented in accordance with the demands of human rights – no matter where the responsibility rests, as the rest of the relatives of the victims and survivors has been denied for so long.
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