Landmark legislation passed to allow Gardai to testify in NI courts

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By Michelle Devane and Cate McCurry, PA

The Irish Parliament has approved landmark legislation that will allow gardai to give evidence at legacy inquests in Northern Ireland.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan confirmed on Friday the Criminal Justice International Co-operation Bill has been passed by both houses of the Oireachtas.

The legislation is based on the Irish Government's assurances to address the legacy of the Troubles as set out under the Stormont House Agreement.

It also means coroners in Northern Ireland will be able to access garda testimony in relation to cases.

Mr Flanagan described the move as "an important step" in the Government's commitment to the agreed measures to address the legacy of the Troubles on the island of Ireland and to support the victims of the conflict and their families.

He said he had been "intimately involved" in the negotiation of the Stormont House Agreement during his time as Foreign Affairs Minister and that now as Justice Minister he was "very happy" to be able to deliver the legal measures necessary to underpin the commitments on legacy matters.

"This legislation is important for victims' families in coronial proceedings in Northern Ireland and represents concrete progress on the part of the Governments to dealing with the painful legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Acknowledging the needs of the victims of the Troubles is a key aspect of our efforts to support and to promote reconciliation.

"This legislation will respond to the needs of coroners in Northern Ireland and Britain dealing with legacy cases to access testimony from An Garda Siochana where this is relevant to their inquests.

"It will also provide a structured mechanism to enhance co-operation with a number of bodies dealing with deaths related to the Troubles, including the Historical Investigations Unit to be established in Northern Ireland and the Ireland-UK Independent Commission on information retrieval, both of which arise from the Stormont House Agreement."

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