Mayo 5, 2007

UK - Death certificates to be issued to the families of the Disappeared victims

Hain move to ease suffering of relatives

Saturday, May 05, 2007

By Sam Lister

New laws are being brought in to help ease the decades of misery suffered by the families of the Disappeared.

Northern Secretary Peter Hain yesterday pledged to introduce legislation allowing death certificates to be issued in cases where bodies of suspected IRA victims have never been found.

Nine victims, all believed to have been abducted, murdered and secretly buried, have never been discovered.

Mr Hain said: "For the families of those whose remains cannot be located, the fact remains that without a body being found it is not possible, under the law as it stands for the deaths to be registered and a certificate issued.

"The families have expressed the view to NIO ministers that having a death certificate would bring great comfort to them.

"While I am pleased that the efforts to locate the bodies of the Disappeared are encouraging and continuing, I am of the view that something should be done to help the families obtain some measure of closure.

"The Government has produced proposals for new legislation which would allow the deaths, not only of the Disappeared but other people who have been missing for as long as seven years, to be registered and death certificates issued."

The IRA apologised to the families of the Disappeared in 2003 after the remains of Belfast woman Jean McConville were discovered on a beach in the Republic.

She had been murdered by the IRA and secretly buried during the 1970s.

Since May 1999 the remains of five of the 14 have been recovered.

DUP leader Ian Paisley intervened on behalf of the McVeigh family to demand that their missing son Columba's body was returned.

He said: "This is a welcome step forward in helping to resolve some of the practical matters impacting on the relatives of these victims. I have taken a deep personal interest in the plight of the Disappeared. This cannot however be considered an end point for Government.

"I will not allow Government or others to have these families considered out of sight and out of mind.

"There can be no let up in our determination to bring resolution on this matter.

"I have raised this issue at talks with Government, the Irish government and with Sinn Fein and will continue to press for the needs of the families of the Disappeared to be met.

"I have not yet been convinced that Government and their counterparts in the Irish Republic have done every last thing they can to bring the maximum pressure to bear on those who may have knowledge of the whereabouts of these victims.

"As the new administration is established at Stormont, the needs of innocent victims of terrorism must remain a key priority for all of us."

The measures will be taken forward by the incoming Assembly and Executive, which will set the timescale for their introduction.

Mr Hain revealed DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson - who will become the new finance and personnel minister on Tuesday when devolution returns - had agreed that work on the proposals would proceed under his direction and that the legislation would be taken forward by the incoming Assembly and power-sharing government.

He added: "The new Minister of Finance & Personnel has agreed that work on these proposals will proceed under his direction, with the restored Executive taking forward the necessary legislation in its programme for the coming year."

The new law is expected to be modelled on the Presumption Of Death (Scotland) Act 1977, which allows families to apply to a court for a declaration that the missing person may be presumed to be dead after seven years.

Posted by marga at Mayo 5, 2007 4:26 PM | TrackBack
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