23 October 2023

Northern Ireland minister asks Irish government to give legacy body ‘a chance’

23 October 2023

Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker has appealed to the Irish government to meet with the head of a new commission created under the UK Government’s controversial Legacy Act.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act received royal assent last month despite widespread opposition from political parties, victims’ organisations in Northern Ireland and the Irish government.

Aspects of the laws include a limited form of immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences to those who co-operate with the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

The ICRIR will be headed by former lord chief justice Sir Declan Morgan.

We're determined that we are doing the right thing

The new Act will also halt future civil cases and inquests.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously said that Ireland is assessing legal advice on the strength of taking a case over the legislation.

Speaking to the PA news agency following the 65th plenary session of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Co Kildare, Mr Baker said the Irish government should meet with Sir Declan and “give him a chance”.

He acknowledged politicians had raised concerns about the Legacy Act during the session.

Mr Baker said: “We listened to people’s concerns about legacy, but we’re determined that we are doing the right thing.

“What’s new now is that the chief commissioner is in place and he’s independently of government setting up the institution and putting in place his policies.

“I hope that the Irish government will take the opportunity to meet the chief commissioner and talk with him about our work because I really do think that it was the unfinished business of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and my heart goes out to families of victims.

“I can’t know what they’ve been through but I do know we need to do things differently.

“Because the chances of justice now are vanishingly small, so I really hope people will give the chief commissioner and his team a chance.”

Irish finance minister Michael McGrath told the assembly that the relationship between the two governments was “back on a positive trajectory”.

Mr Baker said he did not want to return to a position of disagreements with the Irish government.

He said: “We’ve worked really hard to renew the relationship and we treasure the fact.

“I’d much rather keep things on this keel; going forward constructively together. We certainly don’t want to return to the disagreements.”

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