Northern Ireland

NIO: no more police funding for legacy investigations

Theresa Villiers
Image caption First Minister Arlene Foster had asked Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to consider releasing extra funding for the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland)

No more funding will be made available to deal with police investigations into crimes of the past in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has stated.

It was responding to a request from the First Minister Arlene Foster.

She had asked the Secretary of State for extra funding for the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland).

Mrs Foster believes more financial support is needed by police for legacy investigations.

These include cases such as the activities of the Army agent known as Stakeknife. That case alone could cost £35m.

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Image caption West Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci was named in 2003 as Stakeknife but he denies being an undercover Army agent

The inquiry, which is expected to be the largest ever in Northern Ireland into the activities of a single individual, is re-examining about 50 Troubles related murders.

Chief Constable George Hamilton told the BBC's The View that it is likely to cost in the region of £7m per annum "when it gets up and running at full tilt."

He said it will take time to "put some infrastructure in place" and to "populate the investigative teams so that they can be deployed".

Image caption Arlene Foster said she has "a lot of sympathy for the chief constable in relation to legacy issues"

On Friday, Mrs Foster said she has "a lot of sympathy for the chief constable in relation to legacy issues".

"He is trying to fund these investigations which he has been directed to become involved in by other agencies," said Mrs Foster.

"I have already told the Secretary of State that she should look at releasing some of the funds, which were set aside during the negotiations, to allow [George Hamilton] to continue to fund the other very important work that he continues to do."

However, in a statement, an NIO spokesperson made clear no extra funding would be provided.

Image caption Chief Constable George Hamilton said "policing resources" were a matter for politicians

It said that any such investigation "is a matter for the PSNI", adding: "It is the Department of Justice and the wider Northern Ireland Executive who have the responsibility for funding the PSNI."

The statement stressed a need for political consensus to deal with all aspects of Northern Ireland's past.

"We believe we are closer to this than ever before," it said.

"The Government has made it clear that there is an additional £150m available over five years to support new bodies to be set up to investigate the past."

Image caption David Ford said the cost of the Stakeknife investigation should be met by Westminster, not by Stormont

Mr Hamilton told the BBC that "policing resources" were a matter for politicians.

"I actually don't mind whether the secretary of state or minister for justice provide the underwriting," he said.

"The politicians can work out between themselves who is going to underwrite this," he said.

"If I get to a point where I'm unable to staff this investigation because of budgetary pressure there is responsibility for the politicians to meet that gap and that's what I'm asking for - I'm asking for an underwriting rather than a cheque upfront," he said.

He said it was "not my job to referee" a political disagreement about where the funding for the inquiry would come from.

On Friday, Justice Minister David Ford reiterated his department's budget is already under significant pressure and the investigation must be funded by Westminster.

"The issues of the past were clearly stated to be the responsibility of the UK government, with Treasury funding to be provided, and that is an obligation the secretary of state needs to live up to," Mr Ford added.

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