Northern Ireland

Legacy commission set up by British government accused of ‘propaganda’

ICRIR publishes ‘myth-busting’ document

ICRIR document
ICRIR document

A commission set up by the British government to investigate legacy cases has been accused of “propaganda” after it produced a document challenging what it termed “misconceptions” about its work.

The Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) circulated the document days after a group that represents Troubles victims and relatives urged people not to engage with the body until after the Westminster election.

Responsibility for investigating all legacy cases was transferred to the commission after the British government’s contentious Legacy Act was introduced on May 1.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act ended all civil cases and inquests that were not at their findings stage.

Many victims, and relatives of those who died during the Troubles, are strongly opposed to the ICRIR and believe it is part of British government attempts to protect state participants from accountability.

Earlier this year the High Court in Belfast ruled that parts of the legacy legislation are unlawful, including offering conditional immunity from prosecution for Troubles-era offences and shutting down civil actions.

The British government launched a legal challenge of the decision while a cross-appeal over a separate ruling that the ICRIR has sufficient independence and powers to effectively investigate Troubles-related deaths and offences was also been taken.

The Labour Party and shadow Secretary of State Hilary Benn have pledged to “repeal and replace” if successful in next month’s election.

Last week Relatives for Justice launched a booklet, ‘Facts about the ICRIR’, raising concerns about the work of the body.

The group has also urged families not to engage with the “ICRIR and to await the outcome of the British general election in order to maximise this opportunity in the broader interests of all victims”.

Earlier this week the ICRIR circulated it’s own document ‘Myth-busting - commonly held misconceptions about the ICRIR’.

The document raised eight points, it describes as ‘myths’, including suggestions that the commission is “controlled by the secretary of state”.

Mark Thompson, from Relatives for Justice, said on Monday that parts of the Legacy Act “are crystal clear that the ICRIR cannot disclose information deemed ‘sensitive’ in final reports to families without the express permission of the secretary of state.

“The legislation is very clear. The British government have the final say. It’s not independent,” he said.

Daniel Holder from the Committee on the Administration of Justice dismissed the leaflet.

“This ICRIR propaganda leaflet issued in the middle of a court hearing is going to further alienate rather than persuade stakeholders in that it dismisses legitimate concerns about the ICRIR as ‘myths’,” he said.

The ICRIR said: “We welcome all feedback and the opportunity to engage and continue dialogue.”