The Kingsmills Scandal and our ‘do nothing’ Justice minister

Admin —  October 6, 2014

Statement by TUV Leader, Jim Allister:-

“The Kingsmills Inquest is being frustrated by the failure of the Garda to cooperate. For months the Coroner has been asking them for files and for months they have failed to respond. The matter has been commented on several times in the Coroner’s Court, most recently on Friday 3rd October 2014.

“Following a previous exposure of the Garda’s feet-dragging by the Chief Coroner, I raised the matter directly with David Ford on the floor of the Assembly on 16th September 2014, when he was enthusing about the quality of North-South cooperation. His response was pitiful, suggesting it was not for him to intervene.

“Now, at the latest hearing the Chief Coroner is reported (News Letter 4/10/14) to have urged that the matter be addressed at an inter-governmental level. Will minister Ford still try to dodge the issue? To find out I sought to table this Urgent Oral Question to the Justice Minister on today in the Assembly. Sadly, it was declined by the Speaker.  I will now table it as a Priority Written Question:-

‘To ask DOJ in view of the call by the Chief Coroner on 3rd October 2014 at a preliminary hearing into the Kingsmills Massacre for inter-governmental engagement  to address the need for timely and effective cooperation by the Garda, what steps has the minister taken, or will take, with his Republic of Ireland counterpart.’

Below is my exchange with the Justice Minister on 16/9/14:-

Mr Allister: The Minister has been very effusive in praising North/South cooperation and, indeed, has highly commended the Garda, yet, yesterday, the chief coroner in Northern Ireland had occasion to be highly critical of the total lack of cooperation from the Garda in the preparation for the pending Kingsmills massacre inquest.  What actions has the Minister taken to raise that issue with his counterparts?  That is a disgraceful situation.  If he has not done anything, why has he not done anything and will he now seek to engage on that important issue?  The coroner says that he wrote to the guards in February and April looking for cooperation and has had no response.  Is the Minister prepared to sit back and allow that to continue or will he get active on that issue?

Mr Ford: There are a number of points in Mr Allister’s comments.  First of all, I do not operationally direct the PSNI, and I need to be very careful about suggesting that I might operationally direct an Garda Síochána in those circumstances — [Interruption.]

Mr Principal Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Ford: Let us be absolutely clear, it is a major difficulty to resource the issues of the past, whether it be the work of the police in the Historical Enquiries Team and other matters, whether it be the work of the Office of the Police Ombudsman on its historical issues, or whether it be the work of the Coroners’ Courts in this jurisdiction.  We have significant financial problems in dealing with that with a budget that is only for today and which is being cut at this stage whilst some of those issues are enormously expensive.  So, we need to be realistic about the expectation as to what a Minister in this jurisdiction could do to enforce anything on a police service in a different jurisdiction.

Mr Allister: Do nothing.

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