Naomi Long

Stormont’s justice minister has said she is “deeply concerned” by a claim that state bodies are deliberately delaying Troubles inquests.

Multiple inquests are in danger of not being concluded before a May deadline.

Naomi Long has written to Lord Hain seeking further information on remarks he made at Westminster on Wednesday.

The Labour peer alleged bodies, such as the police and Army, are “running down the clock” by failing to provide information on time for inquests.

Any inquest related to the Troubles which has not reached its finding stage by the 1 May deadline will cease.

Last week, the family of IRA man Patrick Duffy was told the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was unable to complete the discovery of documents process in time.

According to their solicitor, only one person at the MoD is working on providing material for legacy inquests.

Ms Long’s Alliance Party, along with all other parties and victim’s organisations in Northern Ireland, oppose the act.

In a statement, she said: “The Westminster legislation has created huge pressures and uncertainty across the justice system and has caused distress and anxiety for many victims and survivors.

“As justice minister, and someone who has worked tirelessly in support of victims and survivors, I am deeply concerned by suggestions that legacy inquests are being deliberately delayed by state bodies.

“This is not something I find acceptable.

“I have written to Lord Hain to clarify where he believes this problem exists and to seek further information that he might have to allow me to pursue the matter further.”

There are 28 legacy inquests currently in the judicial system which have been assigned to a judge or coroner.

Of these, 18 inquests have started and are at hearing stage.

Three inquests have not yet started and are listed to be heard in February and March.

Seven inquests have been allocated to a judge or coroner but are not yet listed to be heard.

A government spokesperson stated that they “continue to assist Northern Ireland courts in good faith in relation to legacy matters”.

They added the law allows a coroner to request a review of a death by the new independent legacy commission if the inquest has not been concluded by 1 May.

BBC News