At least 16 Troubles inquests will not be completed by Legacy Act cut-off date

UK government has rejected claims that state bodies are openly running down clock to May 1st deadline

At least 16 Troubles inquests will not be completed by the cut-off date set by the Legacy Act, according to figures obtained from the Lady Chief Justice’s office.

This figure is expected to increase, as an additional 26 inquests are under active case management by coroners but not all of these will conclude by May 1st.

“The coroners are case managing them with a view to getting them heard but this will be informed by future review hearings,” a spokeswoman said.

Belfast solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh has raised concerns that a significant number of the 26 inquests are “in jeopardy” and will not be heard in time.


“There’s very serious concerns, at least among the families I represent, that a number of inquests that are being case managed and which I am involved in, will not be finished by the cut-off date,” Mr Ó Muirigh said.

“My concern is that the British ministry of defence and state bodies will delay the process, especially in situations where disclosure is due.”

Since the start of the year, coroners have ruled that two legacy inquests cannot be completed before the May 1st cut-off date.

In January, the coroner in the inquest into the death of Patrick Duffy, a 50-year-old father-of-six who was shot dead by an undercover British army unit in Derry in 1978, said it could not be completed by May 1st because the ministry of defence could not provide discovery of sensitive material in time.

Earlier this month the coroner in the inquest into the death of Raymond McCord jnr ruled that it will not be possible to conclude it before May 1st, 2024.

In addition, the Lady Chief Justice’s Office said 10 inquests included in the original five-year plan for such inquiries, as well as 11 new inquest referrals from the Attorney General, have not been allocated to a coroner.

These include the deaths of Co Tyrone nationalist councillor Patsy Kelly and the group of men known as the New Lodge Six.

Seven of these 21 inquests are not subject to the Legacy Act since the deaths did not occur within the period defined as the Troubles. There is no prospect of the other 14 going ahead before May 1st.

Mr Ó Muirigh – who represented the families of some of the 10 victims of the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre at the 2021 inquest which found them “entirely innocent” – said “families who have waited decades on an inquest may end up in a situation where that inquest is part-heard”.

“And I think that’s very cruel for that family. I can’t think of any crueler way to conclude than the matter being part-heard and getting no findings at the end of it. This legislation has placed coroners in this position,” Mr Ó Muirigh said.

He agrees with comments made by former Northern secretary Peter Hain in the House of Lords last week who claimed that “state bodies appear to be openly running down the clock to May 1st”.

The UK government has rejected Mr Hain’s claims.

But Mr Ó Muirigh said he had “witnessed at first hand” the “delaying tactics”.

“Peter Hain’s comments, although they are welcome, came as no surprise to me. I see it on a day-to-day basis and the manner in which the state approach the inquests and the lack of support that’s being given to them,” Mr Ó Muirigh said.

Under the Legacy Act, all legacy inquests not completed by May 1st must transfer to the new investigative body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.

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Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times