A former judge heading up a controversial Troubles legacy body which is opposed by nearly everybody except the British government said this week he hopes the Irish government will cooperate with him.
Derry native Sir Declan Morgan, who is former lord chief justice for Northern Ireland, 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 British government legislation to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s troubled past.
From next May, the commission will take over hundreds of unresolved Troubles cases.
Setting up the bill has proved highly contentious, with victims’ groups, the main Stormont parties and the Irish government all opposed to it.
Morgan conceded it would take time for confidence to be built. He told the BBC that he hoped the Irish government would be “persuaded that they should participate in it.”
He said, “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 cooperate with the commission. The bill would also halt future civil cases and inquests linked to killings during the conflict.
A spokesman for the Irish government told the BBC: “The U.K. Legacy Bill was drafted without consultation with the government of Ireland or the political parties in Northern Ireland.
“The government reiterates its call on the secretary of state to pause the bill to enable a meaningful consultation with stakeholders and to ensure an ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) compliant process.”
But Morgan said, “I recognize there are concerns about the legislation. But it seems to me the way to address that is not by throwing up one’s hands and saying, ‘Well, you know, we can’t do this.’ The way to address that is to think through the strategy for how you will be able to deliver for the people who have been left behind on this issue.”
He conceded there were some victims’ groups that had already stated they would not meet with his new commission, including families from what’s called the Ballymurphy massacre in which nine innocent people were killed by British Army paratroopers over three days in Belfast in 1971.
He said that he was committed to ensuring that everything the commission did was human rights compliant.
The BBC reported that the ICRIR, which will have a £250 million budget and a staff of several hundred, will be established when the new Troubles bill is passed at Westminster, probably by next month.