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Funding for legacy inquests must be released

The importance of dealing with the past in an appropriate manner has been placed into sharp focus by recent revelations regarding the PSNI's failure to disclose information about loyalist murders to the Police Ombudsman.

This development, which was the subject of a special Policing Board meeting yesterday, could be viewed as an unintentional oversight resulting from the volume of material and the complex nature of filing systems.

Or it could be seen as part of a pattern of delay and obstruction from an institution that is not fully committed to an open and transparent approach to contentious cases, some involving allegations of collusion.

While this matter is being played out in a public way, with the Sinn Féin leader's comments on policing sparking further controversy, many families are still struggling to get the answers they deserve in relation to loved ones who were killed decades ago.

Some, like the Ballymurphy Massacre relatives, have waited nearly 50 years to have their day in court.

It has been a hard fought battle for the families bereaved in August 1971 to have the opportunity to hear evidence and eyewitness accounts and to provide personal testimony before a coroner.

Others, such as the Kingmill families, are also finally having their cases heard through the inquest process.

However, it is deeply frustrating that funding which would allow 50 legacy inquests to be completed is being withheld, something the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has raised repeatedly.

Last March, a judge ruled that Arlene Foster's decision to block funding for legacy inquests was unlawful.

The Irish News has learned that in October last year, the department of finance approved a revised business case for legacy inquest funding presented by the justice department.

The British government says this is a devolved matter but this is a poor excuse.

The fact is that the secretary of state has intervened in other devolved matters and if the political will existed could ensure that funding, which has already been approved, could be released.

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