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Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery: Implementation

Volume 732: debated on Thursday 11 May 2023

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill represents the Government’s pledge to address the extremely complex and sensitive legacy of Northern Ireland’s past. The Bill aims to deliver better outcomes for those most affected by the troubles, while at the same time putting in place mechanisms to encourage and promote reconciliation. In seeking to achieve this critical objective, the Bill establishes a new body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (the ICRIR).

The Government believe that the success of the ICRIR will rely on its ability to operate independently of Government. This is why it is being established as an arm’s length body. It will not report to Ministers, but instead to a board of commissioners, and will be staffed by public servants and seconded police officers who will be accountable to the commissioners.

Last month Lord Caine, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, provided Parliament with information about the Government’s proposed approach to appointing ICRIR commissioners. This included criteria for each role and the selection processes which would inform the exercise of my power to make ICRIR commissioner appointments. The Government outlined the importance of beginning the process of advertising and identifying candidates for commissioner roles, so they could begin work to design and set up the body as soon as the Bill completes its legislative process.

Following the process set out for the selection of the Chief Commissioner, having received advice from the judiciary, I have identified the right hon. Sir Declan Morgan to be appointed Chief Commissioner of the ICRIR. His appointment will take place following Royal Assent and the establishment of the ICRIR, taking account of any further considerations and final requirements of the Act.

Sir Declan brings a wealth of experience from his previous role as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland from 2009 to 2021. A hallmark of his distinguished career has been his commitment to addressing Northern Ireland’s past. I am confident that he will bring the highest level of experience, expertise and integrity to this post, which will help build public confidence in the ICRIR.

Sir Declan will begin work from early next month to identify other commissioners and to design how the new commission will carry out its role. In particular, the Chief Commissioner will lead the process to recruit the commissioner for investigations and provide a recommended candidate to me. The broadest possible field of experienced candidates is sought to fill this important role. The role is currently advertised and is subject to fair and open competition, with appointment on merit.

In light of the announcement of the Chief Commissioner, the deadline will be extended until 1 June to allow him to lead the appointment process and form a panel.

The Government are committed to delivering the legislative framework to address the legacy of the Northern Ireland troubles and promote reconciliation, and to ensuring that, subject to parliamentary process, it is implemented swiftly, and in the best possible ways, so that it can serve the people of Northern Ireland.

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