Northern Ireland

NIO holds 740 emails and documents linked to cancelled conference it denies organising

Event called off after concerns raised

Former lord chief justice Sir Declan Morgan is the ICRIR's chief commissioner
Former lord chief justice Sir Declan Morgan

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has insisted it had no part in organising a conference about the controversial Legacy Act, which was later cancelled.

It comes after it emerged that the NIO generated 740 pieces of email correspondence and other documents in relation to the shelved ‘Legacy: Reaching Beyond the Past’ conference.

The Law Society-arranged conference was due to take place at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast last September but was later called off after concerned relatives, victims and campaign groups said they intended to hold a picket outside the venue.

Several prominent legal figures also withdrew in the days before the conference was due to take place.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act provides immunity in some cases along with ending all inquests and civil cases.

Legal challenges against the legislation have been launched at the High Court.

Former Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan, chair of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR), which was set up by the British government to oversee the handling of all conflict-related cases after May, was due to take part in the conference.

Although not officially listed as a speaker, it was understood that NIO minister Jonathan Caine, was also lined up to attend.

Mr Caine was a central figure in passing the Legacy Act.

In response to a Freedom of Information request from the Pat Finucane Centre, it has now emerged that the NIO holds 736 pieces of email correspondence and four documents, two of which are duplicates, relating to the conference.

NIO documents also confirm for the first time that Lord Caine was due to attend the conference.

The Law Society said the “conference was organised solely” by it, adding that it “invited participation from a range of interested parties”.

Alan Brecknell from the Pat Finucane Centre said: “This seems to be a huge amount of correspondence for the NIO to hold on an external conference,” adding that it should provide more details on its input.

A spokesman for the NIO however insisted it had “no involvement in the organisation of the conference” but confirmed it was invited.