SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has issued a challenge to British Prime Minister David Cameron over the issue of funding for the investigation of ‘Troubles’ legacy cases.
Mr Eastwood said Mr Cameron needs to “step up and step in” following an announcement by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) that money for the investigations will only be released following political agreement at Stormont on how to deal with the past. Political parties failed to come to an agreement on establishing an agreed way forward at the conclusion of talks on the Stormont House Agreement at the end of last year. And, in recent days Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said that talks in the issue are unlikely to proceed before the upcoming Assembly Elections in May.
“This is an issue, but the people with the most truth to tell need to be telling it and I would encourage the British Government in terms of David Cameron, I think David Cameron needs to step up and step in. This is way above the Secretary of State’s pay grade. He needs to recognise the good thing he did around Bloody Sunday, he can do that again and offer lots of people that same level of truth and justice,” Mr Eastwood said.
Meanwhile, Stormont Justice Minister David Ford has heavily criticised the NIO after it said no more funding would be available to police for legacy investigations. He said he had told Theresa Villiers “several times” since the Fresh Start deal that Northern Ireland was “not funded to deal with the past. If legacy issues are not dealt with properly, it will be the British Government, not the Department of Justice, that has to answer questions in Strasbourg,” he said.
The NIO said: “It is the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Executive who have responsibility for funding the PSNI.”