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Legacy inquest funding is overdue but welcome

News that funding is being released to allow the completion of 52 legacy inquests is a welcome, if long overdue, development.

The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has regularly expressed concern at the delay in providing funds, which were blocked by former first minister Arlene Foster.

That decision was challenged through the courts by Mrs Brigid Hughes, whose husband Anthony was shot dead along with eight IRA members by the SAS at Loughgall in 1987.

Last March, a judge ruled that Mrs Foster's decision was flawed and unlawful.

Sir Paul Girvan also said the obligation on the state to investigate deaths during the conflict remained whether or not devolved government was restored.

Earlier this week, The Irish News reported that despite the department of finance approving a revised business case for legacy inquest funding last October, the British government maintained that this was a devolved matter.

This stance is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain as important issues pile up.

Clearly, there is an overwhelming case for legacy inquest funding just as there is a strong argument for other urgent matters, such as domestic abuse legislation, to be progressed by the secretary of state.

Karen Bradley is continuing to involve herself in key decisions, as we saw yesterday with the setting of Northern Ireland's budget in the absence of a power sharing executive.

Mrs Bradley has allocated an additional £140 million in government funding on top of the £11 billion block grant.

Some departments have received increased money but it has been pointed out that in real terms it represents a cut to the education budget and an uplift of just two per cent to health.

Given the acute pressures being felt by these crucial areas, it is hard to be optimistic that the cash will make a noticeable difference.

The appalling waiting times for patient care alone require targeted intervention along with a wider strategy that needs to be driven by a minister.

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