Northern Ireland

Legacy body chief urged to resign

Former Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan
Former Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan

Relatives of people killed in the Ballymurphy massacre have called on former Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan to resign from a new legacy body.

In an open letter, John Teggart of the Ballymurphy Massacre Families spoke of his disappointment that the senior legal figure has taken on the role of Chief Commissioner of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

Read More: Criticism as former Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan appointed to head legacy body before controversial changes even become law

His appointment was made before contentious legacy legislation, which will allow ICRIR to be established, has become law.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill is currently making its way through Westminster and is expected to become law in the summer.

Under the proposed legislation, which has been dubbed the ‘Bill of Shame' by some opponents, only inquests which have reached substantive hearing stage a year after the bill will be allowed while civil cases have been stopped.

Immunity from prosecution will also be offered in some circumstances.

Mr Teggart’s brother Daniel was among 10 people shot dead by the British army over three days in August 1971.

In 2021, an inquest found all 10 were innocent.

Among the victims was a Catholic priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, and a mother-of-eight Joan Connolly.

Another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the British soldiers.

In his letter Mr Teggart outlined the broad opposition to the plan.

He was responding to a request by the new chief commissioner, who previously developed a five-year plan to help clear a legacy inquest backlog, for a meeting.

He also outlined his group’s disappointment at the former legal chief’s decision to take on his current role.

“We are very surprised and deeply disappointed that you have taken this position given your sterling work in recommending mechanisms for dealing with legacy issues included in your five-year plan,” he said.

“This bill flies in the face of that plan and will deny others the opportunity our families were given.

“It is also surprising to us that you agreed to take up your post before it has even been legislated for.”

Mr Teggart said the 2014 Stormont House Agreement provides the best solution for dealing with the past.

“We as victims believe the Stormont House Agreement and the mechanisms therein for dealing with our past is the way forward for most if not all victims,” he said.

The campaigner urged the former Lord Chief Justice to step down.

A spokesman for the ICRIR said: “Sir Declan’s first priority is meeting as many people and groups as part of his preparatory work so that the new commission best reflects the needs of communities across Northern Ireland.

"He recognises this is a difficult subject and he will always be willing to meet at any stage.

“He is committed to the development of ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) compliant procedures.”