Northern Ireland news

James Brokenshire: Some Troubles information can never be made public

File photo dated 11/01/17 of Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire who has cancelled his trip to Washington to concentrate on critical talks to save powersharing at Stormont. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday March 12, 2017. See PA story ULSTER Election. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Michael McHugh and Jon Vale, Press Association

SOME information from the Troubles can never be made public because it would put lives at risk, Secretary of State James Brokenshire has claimed.

Sinn Féin has accused him of hiding behind security issues and blocking the release of funds for inquests into Troubles-era killings.

However Mr Brokenshire told the House of Commons yesterday: "National security remains the primary responsibility of the UK Government and (in) our actions we will certainly continue to have that at the forefront of our minds".

Sinn Féin and the British Government have been at loggerheads over the issue.

The dispute has hindered efforts to reach a deal on tackling the legacy of the Troubles and the release of money for inquests into Troubles deaths.

Former First Minister, the DUP's Arlene Foster, blocked a bid to request the extra money from the Government amid fears of an imbalance between the number of inquiries into state killings and those involving paramilitaries.

Victims, including a group representing 10 people killed by soldiers in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971, held a protest at the delay at Stormont on Wednesday.

They urged politicians engaged in power-sharing talks at Stormont not to enter government until there is agreement on addressing the legacy of the past.

Sinn Féin's leader in the north, Michelle O'Neill, accused Mr Brokenshire and the British government of "hiding behind" security concerns.

"These families have the right to an inquest. It should not be subject to a political veto," she said.

Former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers raised the issue with Mr Brokenshire in the Commons yesterday.

"The Government and the police have disclosed unprecedented amounts of information about the Troubles, some of it extremely sensitive," she said.

"But will the Secretary of State agree that there is some information that is so sensitive that it can never go out into the public domain, because it would put lives at risk if it did?"

Mr Brokenshire replied: "I do agree with her, and with all of her experience as a previous secretary of state she knows the sensitivity and importance of these issues of national security."

He said devolved government can return to the north, and praised a "shared willingness" among the parties to re-establish power-sharing.

He added that "significant challenges" remained but progress had been made and needed to continue urgently to reach a positive outcome.

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