Cost of Bloody Sunday inquiry reaches £52m

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The Independent Online

Barristers workers on the Bloody Sunday inquiry have been paid an average of £400,000 each, prompting calls for the Government to cap their fees. The total cost of the inquiry has reached £52m, and that could double by the time the findings are published in two years.

Jeffrey Donaldson, the Ulster Unionist MP whose parliamentary question drew the costings from the Northern Ireland Office yesterday, said the £52m was much more had been spent on helping the families and victims of the 1972 shootings.

Barristers for the inquiry and the victims' families, including Michael Mansfield QC, have shared £7.17m in fees and expenses.

In a breakdown of expenditure so far, the Government disclosed that Eversheds solicitors had received almost £11m to interview witnesses and for providing professional support and guidance.

Since the inquiry began, more than £13m has been spent on information technology. Travel expenses for legal teams are standing at £1.3m.

Mr Donaldson said: "The Government has to put a cap on this expenditure especially at a time when public services are crying out for further investment." He warned that the final figure would be more than £100m.

"I think we have reached the point where public representatives are entitled to express the opinion that this money could be spent more adequately in other ways," he said.

Lawyers for the Northern Ireland Office have already gone to court to try to overturn a decision to increase the legal fees paid to some barristers. Daily earnings for senior barristers now top £2,000.

But in a statement, the Northern Ireland Office said it would continue to support the work of the inquiry, which is investigating the circumstances of 30 January 1972 when 14 civilians were shot dead by soldiers of the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment, during a civil rights rally.

The decision to hold a fresh inquiry was announced by Tony Blair on 29 January 1998. Its opening statement was heard on 3 April of that year and it began hearing evidence in March 2000.

Having already heard from almost 500 witnesses, the inquiry is to resume on Monday.

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