Northern Ireland news

Political crisis 'no excuse' for legacy cases delay

Patricia McVeigh with a picture of her father Patrick McVeigh who was shot by the MRF in May 1972.

A woman whose father was shot dead by a shadowy army unit has called on the British government to "stop hiding behind the current political crisis" and fulfil a commitment to fund legacy inquests.

Patricia McVeigh's father Pat was killed by the Military Reaction Force, a covert unit of the British army set up in 1971 but disbanded after just 14 months amid serious concerns about its tactics.

Mr Veigh (44), a father-of-six, was shot dead in west Belfast in May 1972. Four other people were also injured.

Daniel Rooney (18) was also shot dead as he stood at the top of St James's Crescent in west Belfast in September 1972.

Inquests were held into both deaths the following year but the soldiers who fired the fatal shots were not called to give evidence and the coroner recorded an open verdict.

In 2013 former MRF members admitted killing unarmed civilians during a television documentary made by journalist John Ware.

The following year the attorney general John Larkin granted fresh inquests into the two deaths.

However, a delay over funding has left the families without a date for the hearings.

While the British government pledged £150m over five years to speed up the inquest process, this was blocked by the DUP ahead of the 2016 assembly election.

Ms McVeigh contacted Secretary of State James Brokenshire to ask that he ensure the coroner's office receives the extra funding to allow families such as hers to have their inquests heard promptly.

While Mr Brokenshire confirmed that the British government stood by the pledge of £150m "to address the legacy of the past", the money relies on the restoration of the devolved institutions.

Ms McVeigh said: "It becomes more and more clear every day that there will be no restoration of Stormont in the near future.

"The government cannot keep hiding behind the political crisis. They have committed this money and without it families such as mine are being left in an indefinite period of uncertainty.

"It's cruel, and heaping more trauma upon people who have already waited and suffered enough."

Ms McVeigh's solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh said: "The families I represent are deeply frustrated at the fact that political considerations appear to be holding up their legal right to a timely and effective investigation into their loved one's death.

"They feel they are being used as a political football by certain political parties and the British Secretary of State.

"Regardless of the political situation we currently find ourselves, in this jurisdiction the British government have an obligation to find a method of discharging their obligations, as signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights, in respect of legacy cases. This has been recognised by both the Lord Chief Justice and Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe.

"It is imperative that all necessary steps are taken by the British government, including the release of adequate funding, to progress legacy inquests without further delay."

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