Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (652)

Brendan Smith

Question:

652. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider reappointing a victims commissioner to liaise with victims and families in relation to legacy issues. [31971/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to an equivalent position to the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Victims and Survivors.

The Deputy will recall that former Tánaiste, the late John Wilson, was instrumental in chairing the Commission which produced the Report of the Victims' Commission, "A Place and a Name" in August 1999. John Wilson went on to play an important role as Commissioner to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains.

The Stormont House Agreement, concluded by the two Governments and the Northern Ireland Parties in December 2014, provides for a framework of measures to address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The Agreement provides for the establishment of an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR).

The objective of the ICIR will be to enable victims and survivors to seek and privately receive information about the Troubles-related deaths of their next of kin. Individuals from both the UK and Ireland will be able to seek information from the ICIR. Relevant authorities will cooperate with the ICIR.

The Irish and UK Governments concluded an agreement on the establishment of the ICIR in October 2015. The ICIR will consist of five members: an Independent Chairperson of international standing, appointed by the two Governments; one Commissioner each appointed by the Irish and UK Government; and two Commissioners appointed by the Office of the Northern Ireland First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Work on the implementation of the Stormont House Legacy framework has been unduly delayed by the political impasse in Northern Ireland, although I am hopeful of progress and indeed the Government has been actively supporting recent efforts to try to find a way forward.

The Government has been progressing a programme of major reform in supporting victims of crime in recent years. This is being driven by a strong commitment to make our criminal justice system one which is much more accommodating and more supportive of all victims of crime, including those who have suffered during the troubles.

In particular, the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act, 2017, which transposed the European Union’s Directive (2012/29/EU) establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, into national law has provided for new statutory rights for all victims of crime in Ireland. This legislation, which was enacted in November 2017, includes new rights, particularly in areas such as the right to information and the provision of additional supports and protection.

At an operational level, significant work has been, and continues to be, taken across the relevant criminal justice agencies to ensure that the necessary structures and arrangements are in place so as to ensure effective and streamlined implementation of the Act and in the overall provision of better supports to victims of crime.