Failure to deal with the legacy of the Troubles is “infecting” policing in Northern Ireland with “the disease of the past”, it has been warned.
Victims groups have said that the lack of resources dedicated to investigating Troubles related killings is blocking reconciliation and powersharing within the region.
During a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in the Dail on Thursday, Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane Centre said that families have a right to know as much as possible about what happened to their loved ones.
“How can the fact that a mere 0.2% of the overall criminal justice budget (in Northern Ireland) is being spent on legacy inquiries encourage confidence?
“It can’t and it doesn’t. These problems are infecting the new policing arrangements with the diseases of the past,” she said.
Ms Cadwallader added: “On top of that, the inquest system in Northern Ireland has now effectively collapsed. The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan in his business model said it will cost £10m (11.11m euro) to fund the 56 outstanding inquests into 98 deaths.
“The DUP leader Arlene Foster is facing a legal challenge for allegedly blocking Sir Declan’s plan after she confirmed in a BBC interview she would not allow it to proceed because she doesn’t believe enough innocent victims are on the list.
“How is all of this improving the prospect of reconciliation and powersharing? London cannot be allowed to abdicate its responsibilities or use the powersharing executive at Stormont as cover for its failures.”
Ms Cadwallader also criticised demands from some politicians for an “amnesty” for members of the Army who were involved in Troubles related killings.
Referring to the case of 27-year-old John Pat Cunningham, a vulnerable adult who was shot dead by soldiers in County Armagh in 1974 as he ran away from them, she said: ” That family has had to listen to some British politicians and newspapers calling for what amounts to an amnesty for people who kill Irish citizens while wearing the uniform of the British Army.”
She added: “Even worse, the victim’s family has witnessed some of these same ex British soldiers blaming them for having the audacity of letting John Pat out of the house on the day he was killed.”
Mike Ritchie, of Relatives for Justice, accused the PSNI of failing to do enough to assist legacy inquests and investigations.
“(PSNI Chief Constable) George Hamilton claims he wishes to hand over legacy matters and concentrate on policing the present. He, however, and his deputy Drew Harris were RUC officers.
“By their actions they are protecting the legacy of the RUC and thereby undermining the reputation and potential legacy of the PSNI,” he claimed.
Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly said the UK government must be pressurised into tackling the legacy issue.
He added that Brexit could be used as “leverage” to make the UK Government resolve the issue as part of a Brexit settlement.
Sinn Fein MLA Paul Maskey said: “Family members are dying. Grandchildren are now looking at this. We need to get the issue of legacy resolved.”