Northern Ireland Secretary urges those seeking justice for Troubles victims to fully engage with new Commission

Northern Ireland Secretary urges those seeking justice for Troubles victims to fully engage with new Commission

NORTHERN Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has urged those still seeking justice for Troubles victims to ‘engage wholeheartedly’ with a new Commission established under the British Government’s controversial Legacy Act.

The legislation, which came into effect yesterday (May 1), sees those who co-operate with the newly created Independent Commission for Reconciliation & Information Recovery (ICRIR) granted immunity from prosecution over Troubles-era cases.

Despite the legislation being criticised by the leaders of all political parties in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, as well as the UN Human Rights Committee, the law has come into effect this week and the ICRIR became operational yesterday.

“It is very welcome news that the Commission can now proceed to conduct reviews on behalf of families and provide vital information about Troubles-related cases,” Mr Heaton-Harris said, while welcoming the opening of the ICRIR.

“Individuals and families now have access to a dedicated, well resourced, and effective mechanism to take forward the task of reviewing their case,” he added.

“I encourage all those who continue to seek information, accountability and acknowledgement regarding what happened to them or their loved ones to engage wholeheartedly with the ICRIR.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris

Despite the widespread criticism of the legislation, Mr Heaton-Harris insists the new Commission will provide “more information and answers” for the families and loved ones of Troubles victims.

“In establishing the independent Commission, we are doing something that has eluded successive Governments since 1998,” he said.

“That is, delivering robust and effective mechanisms for addressing the legacy of the past, and providing more information and answers to families.”

He added: “If the independent Commission is given an opportunity to demonstrate its effectiveness, I am confident that it will deliver results.”

“The ICRIR is operationally independent of Government, and has all the necessary powers to conduct effective criminal investigations,” he explained.

The ICRIR is led by Chief Commissioner Declan Morgan.

“This week sees the end of the current approach to legacy cases, with responsibilities split across a number of different organisations,” he said this week.

“The Commission will now provide a single, dedicated mechanism for investigations into deaths and serious harm during the Troubles.”

He added: “We are committed to complying with the ECHR and to delivering for all, no matter their background, and will use our powers to investigate thoroughly so that we set out the unvarnished facts.

“I understand that these changes are not welcomed by some, but like when I set up the Legacy Inquests process against opposition, I am convinced that we can make this a success.

“We will work to gain trust by what we can deliver and we will keep reaching out to all those across our community for their input to improve the way that the Commission works.”