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Sealing the Past: McQuillan and the Future of Legacy Litigation

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Colin MurrayORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Cases which address the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict all-to-often tend to be cordoned off from general discourse about human rights jurisprudence in the UK. Indeed, it can be reassuring for accounts of the UK’s contemporary constitutional order focused on Whitehall and Westminster to file such legacy litigation under the heading of “dark days, long ago, over the water”. This article explores the shortcomings with this approach through the lens of the UK Supreme Court’s decision McQuillan, McGuigan and McKenna. It highlights not only the Court’s discomfort with dealing with such cases, and efforts to constrain such litigation, but also identifies a sea change in the Justices’ approaches to the limits of the Human Rights Act, and informs understandings of the operation of the rule against bias and the doctrine of legitimate expectations. It is thus a decision which both reshapes the Northern Ireland conflict’s legacy litigation and which provides a significant window into shifting attitudes to human rights claims in the UK Supreme Court.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Deb A, Murray C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Human Rights Law Review

Year: 2022

Volume: 2022

Issue: 4

Pages: 395-411

Print publication date: 10/09/2022

Online publication date: 08/08/2022

Acceptance date: 01/07/2022

Date deposited: 26/07/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1361-1526

Publisher: Sweet and Maxwell


ePrints DOI: 10.57711/ks6g-1d75