Head of new legacy body hopes Dublin government will participate in process

Former NI Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan is to head a new legacy commission in NI (David Young/PA)
Former NI Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan is to head a new legacy commission in NI (David Young/PA)

The former judge who will lead a new legacy body in Northern Ireland has said he hopes that the Irish government will work with the commission.

Former Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, is to become chief commissioner of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

The commission, aimed at uncovering facts around unsolved Troubles deaths, will be created by controversial new Government legislation to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

From next year, the ICRIR will take over hundreds of unresolved Troubles cases.

The Bill has proved highly contentious, with victims’ groups, all of the main Stormont parties and the Irish government all opposed to it.

But Sir Declan said while he conceded it would take time for confidence to be built, he hoped the Irish Government would be “persuaded that they should participate in it”.

He told the BBC: “I don’t contemplate this commission failing.”

One of the most controversial aspects of the new legal framework is the offer of immunity from prosecution for perpetrators who co-operate with the commission.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill would also halt future civil cases and inquests linked to killings during the conflict.

Sir Declan conceded that there were some victims’ groups who had already stated they would not meeting with the new commission.

Sir Declan Morgan
Sir Declan Morgan says he hopes that people will engage with the commission (UTV/PA)

He said: “There have been some people who have indicated that they don’t wish to engage, the Ballymurphy massacre families are on record in relation to that.

“What I have found is that there are people out there who want to understand what the commission is likely to be able to do for them.

“I recognise that there are concerns about the legislation, and I recognise there are concerns about how we achieve reconciliation, which has to be at the heart of everything that we are doing.

“But it seems to me that the way to address that is not by throwing up one’s hands and saying ‘well we can’t do this’, the way to address that is to think through the strategy as to how you will be able to deliver for the people who have been left behind.”

The former judge also referred to concerns raised that the new government bill is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

He said: “That is a decision which, of course, will be for the courts to make.

“I expect, because it has been advertised, that there will be challenges and that the court will determine whether the bill is compliant.”

Northern Ireland Troubles
A number of protests have been staged in opposition to the government’s new legacy bill (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said that he was committed to ensuring that everything the commission did was human rights compliant.

Sir Declan said: “How people respond to this process will be different. There will be some people who will find it too traumatic to come forward in relation to the process.

“There will be others for whom there will have been perhaps investigations carried out in the past and information of some sort provided to them but there are things that they still wonder about.”