Funding for legacy inquests must be released as matter of urgency

Recently appointed secretary of state James Brokenshire said earlier this month that dealing with the legacy of our troubled past was a priority.

He added that he wanted to see the various legacy bodies set out in the Stormont House Agreement to be up and running `as quickly as possible' but pointed out these bodies will only work if they can `command confidence and support from across the community.'

This was an acknowledgement that finding an agreed way forward on these issues is far from straightforward.

Of course, the families of those killed over decades of conflict know all about stumbling blocks, delays and obfuscation.

They have become accustomed to disappointment and setbacks but they have not given up the search for the truth about the incidents that took the lives of their loved ones.

They have also grown understandably impatient with official stalling and are rightly demanding that information is released and answers provided as far as possible.

Over the past few months, hopes had been raised that movement was likely on tackling the backlog of inquests into some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan this month urged political leaders to sort out funding for these inquests, his call coming after his request for £10 million to fund a five-year programme was blocked by Arlene Foster.

The families of those killed by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in August 1971 went along to a meeting with Mr Brokenshire on Monday having been encouraged by some of the secretary of state's recent statements.

However, they were again left bitterly disappointed, walking out of the meeting after just 45 minutes and criticising Mr Brokenshire's attitude towards their pleas for inquest funding.

This is deeply unfortunate and will reinforce concerns over the DUP's position on historical cases.

But the NIO must move forward, listen to the Lord Chief Justice and the bereaved families and ensure these scandalously overdue legacy hearings get underway.