Minister of Justice, David Ford, addressed the Chamber during today’s Question Time. In answer to Michelle McIlveen’s query about departmental resources set aside in the quest for justice for the murders of the Disappeared, the Minister said that it is very important that the PSNI and other criminal justice agencies are adequately resourced and he will continue to work with his Executive colleagues to ensure that sufficient funding is available. He also affirmed that anyone with information has an “absolute duty to do all that they can to assist in the recovery of those who were disappeared”. At the suggestion that there may be a lack of urgency in bringing the perpetrators to justice, Mr Ford declared that he had “no evidence to believe that everything that can be done is not being done”.
Patsy McGlone followed this up by asking the Minister about steps being taken by the Department of Justice to help find the remains of Columba McVeigh (one of the Disappeared). The Minister reiterated his call for anyone with information to go to the relevant authorities but said that the matter is for the PSNI and Garda Síochána to deal with rather than his department directly.
Jimmy Spratt also asked the Minister for an update on the recommendations suggested by the NI Prisoner Ombudsman after the suicide of inmate Colin Bell in Maghaberry prison in 2008. The Minister confirmed that 43 of the 44 recommendations made in the Ombudsman’s report were accepted, have now been addressed and he is satisfied that significant progress has been made by the Prison Service. Mr Ford agreed that the death was avoidable but is confident that “lessons are being learned”.
During a busy Question Time the Minister answered many other Members queries including topics such as human trafficking, parole commissioner procedures and the National Crime Agency.