On 18 March 2020, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland published a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) announcing new proposals to address the legacy of the Troubles. This followed a commitment by the Government to introduce legislation to Parliament within 100 days as part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement in January. Having raised expectations, the Government has failed to provide any further policy detail on this critical issue in the following seven months. The two-page WMS remains the only source of information on the new policy. Survivors, victims’ families and, more widely, the people of Northern Ireland experienced immense suffering during and after the Troubles. The WMS was not informed by meaningful consultation with victims’ groups, Northern Ireland political parties or the Irish Government.
Key practical questions remain unanswered about the role and function of the proposed new legacy body. For example, the Government has not clarified its plans to close permanently cases not meeting the threshold for full investigation or explained why it now plans to form a single body to handle both investigations and information recovery. We were unable to obtain answers to the outstanding questions, because our planned oral evidence session on 16 September with the Secretary of State and NIO officials was postponed at the Government’s request.
This Report is necessarily an Interim Report, a decision taken in the hope that it may be able to shape the policy that emerges following the publication of the WMS. We will complete this inquiry with a final Report, when the Government has articulated the policy detail; in the meantime, we shall maintain our scrutiny brief.
Published: 26 October 2020