Inquests normally require evidence and witnesses before verdicts which may point to criminal proceedings. Arlene Foster needs no such formalities. Her pre-election veto on inquest funding, citing the "innocent victims", tells us she must have already sorted who are innocent victims and who are not.
Crown Judge Declan Morgan's funding request followed a review of 56 cases involving 97 deaths among them 22 cases more than 40 years old. These inquests included victims of controversial killings by the British Army, Royal Ulster Constabulary and cases where collusion was charged.
Many grieving families believe their loved ones were not alone murdered, but were then victims of an orchestrated whitewash, where lies were concocted and put out to justify murder. They believe that the legal procedures created to protect innocent victims were perverted to give impunity to British crown forces.
Morgan proposed to complete these inquests in 5 years, provided the Stormont executive got him funding from British secretary Theresa Villiers. Foster refused to discuss it.
Speaking on BBC, Foster said:
a lot of innocent victims feel that their voice has not been heard recently and there has been an imbalance in relation to state killings as opposed to paramilitary killings.
What was Foster really saying? Take for example the Ballymurphy Massacre families. Their voices have been heard, presumably because their public campaign is their only hope of justice. They have said their family members were innocent victims, shot down for getting in the way as British troopers carried out internment raids in August 1971.They say that inquest testimony and witnesses would exonerate their slain family members.
Why would their loved ones not be as worthy of an inquest as others? Does Foster have some legal grounds to say they were not innocent victims? Is it enough that British crown forces killed them, so they must have been guilty? Does she think that British crown judges like Declan Morgan would be unfair to British crown witnesses? If an inquest proved any legal justification for these killings, would Foster not deem the money well spent?
Foster's words seem to follow on directly from Theresa Villiers' lecture at Ulster University earlier this year. Villiers expressed displeasure at what she called a "pernicious counter narrative" about killings by British crown forces between 1968-1998. In plainer English, the colonial secretary scorns suggestions that Britain bears any blame for killings by British troops, constabulary, the crown's paid agents, informers and proxies. Her lecture was clearly a declaration of intent to continue stonewalling by withholding witnesses, documents and money.
The election is over. Will Morgan's proposal now be funded? Will inquests that may reveal inconvenient truths about innocent victims which counter and refute the British narrative continue to be delayed and stonewalled?