The Department of Justice recently held what they termed three stakeholder workshops on dealing with the past with legislation expected to go before Westminster in September as part of the Stormont House agreement.
As part of this process the DOJ invited select groups to attend these workshops yet neglected to inform families of many victims. When this was discovered relatives of some of those who lost their lives during the troubles immediately challenged the DOJ on what they felt were closed shop proceedings.
As a result of this challenge the Department of Justice agreed to meet with victims' families and other interested parties. To facilitate this meeting at their own expense family members booked and paid for a function room in a City Centre Hotel in Derry and set about inviting a broad range of victims to attend a meeting in Derry on 26th August 2015.
At 6.20pm this evening (25th/8/15) Brian Grzymek, Deputy Director of the Justice Department's Legacy Unit advised the organisers on the following:
I am emailing you to confirm that The DOJ will not be in a position to send officials to the meeting in Derry tomorrow.
I appreciate that you will be disappointed at this late withdrawal and know that you consider this a lost opportunity for us to inform victims’ families of our work on the legislation to establish the HIU and to improve legacy inquest arrangements in Northern Ireland. However, as I indicated, the department is only authorised to engage with stakeholders on the justice dimensions of the Stormont House Agreement and from press contacts and direct conversations with a few intended participants, it became apparent that tomorrow’s meeting was expected to go beyond the scope of this department’s remit relating to the Agreement. In the circumstances it was concluded that it would not be appropriate to send officials who would not have had the authority to discuss broader issues regarding the Agreement.
Yet in correspondence to a Journalist on August 21st a representative from the Justice Department stated the following:
A further workshop has been planned for Derry / Londonderry on 26th August in response to a local request and a number of separate meetings have been taking place with stakeholders who have requested them.
It is evident that the DOJ are demonstrating a complete lack of any coherent position and are content to cause further distress to those who have already suffered as a result of the troubles. Stemming from this I would question the capability of the DOJ to deal with the past in a manner that shows any respect or decency for the actual stakeholders, those who lost family members.
Despite the DOJ refusing to attend tomorrow's meeting relatives and troubles victims will still meet to discuss the implications of the DOJ actions and a way forward from this. Padrigin Drinan a retired human rights lawyer will be attending the discussion to provide an overview on the information currently available.
Please make an effort to attend tomorrows meeting, 2pm (Aug 26th) the Maldron Hotel Derry.