Brehon Law Society: Benn too ambiguous on Legacy commitments

The President of the Brehon Law Society of New York released a statement today calling for greater clarity from the new British government in regards to their commitments to repeal and replace the Legacy act. The Brehons are an organization of lawyers, judges, and other law-related personnel founded in 1978 that takes its name from the body of ancient Celtic law that defined and governed legal relationships on the island of Ireland. The current President is Domhnall O’Catháin. Founded by Paul O’Dwyer and Frank Durkan, previous presidents include James Cullen, Gerry Keogh, Lawrence Downes, Hon. Kelly O’Neill Levy, Robert Dunne, Sean Downes, Jennifer Frankola Crawford and others.

The letter reads:

The election of Keir Starmer as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and his appointment of Hilary Benn as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is a hopeful sign for those of us focused on peace and justice in Ireland. Of course, the bar was set so low by the Tories over the past number of years that any change of power in London is to be welcomed.

It was a Labor government in London that negotiated the Good Friday Agreement and the Labor party has been consistent in its support of the Agreement. The extent of that support will now be put to the test. The Legacy Act has been law since last September. The Labor government, with its overwhelming majority, can right the wrongs of that law.

The initial soundings from Secretary Benn on the Legacy Act have been too ambiguous for comfort. In particular, he has stated that he will not yet scrap the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR). The problem with giving the ICRIR more time is that ICRIR then becomes the recognized institution rather than the court system. Victims should have access to the Courts through a properly funded legal system. Prime Minister Starmer, a former human rights lawyer, should certainly agree with that.

Domhnall Ó Catháin
President, Brehon Law Society of New York