Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster did not veto Executive Office legal representation in Troubles pension case

First Minster Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA
Brendan Hughes

FIRST Minister Arlene Foster did not veto her department having legal representation defending itself in the High Court challenge to delays in the Troubles pension scheme.

This is despite the DUP leader and her party's repeated criticism of Sinn Féin for refusing to designate a Stormont department to oversee the payments.

As a jointly held department, both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill, needed to give their permission for the department to be legally represented in the case.

TUV leader Jim Allister questioned its presence arguing against the victims' judicial review application.

"The Executive Office is a joint office which can only take actions with the consent of both the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister," he said.

"Thus I expect many innocent victims will be intrigued to know how this joint office came to resist the judicial review application in the High Court."

During the hearing, the judge repeatedly indicated that Ms O'Neill was ignoring the rule of law by blocking progress on the pension scheme.

Michael Humphreys QC, for the Executive Office, rejected any suggestion of an unlawful delay, telling the court there was no specific date in the relevant regulations.

The Executive Office confirmed to The Irish News that both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister gave approval for the department to have legal representation in the case.

It was asked why Mrs Foster consented to this, given that she and her party are against delays to the pension scheme.

In response, a spokeswoman said: "The Executive Office affidavit set out the reasons why a department had not been designated and responded to the other issues raised by the applicants in the case.

"The affidavit also set out clearly the respective positions of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on these issues."

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