The British government has announced it will not fund the investigation of the majority of the 2,000 unsolved killings from Northern Ireland's Troubles.

The policy departs from an agreement made with the Irish Government and Northern Ireland's parties during what were called the Stormont House negotiations.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis signalled the change in policy today.

Reacting to the shift, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the changes must be discussed and agreed by both Governments and the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive.

In a statement, Mr Coveney said: "The position of the Government is clear.  The Stormont House Agreement framework is the way forward on these issues.  It was agreed by both Governments and the political parties after intensive negotiations, and it must be implemented.

"Where the UK Government are proposing significant changes to that framework, these must be discussed and agreed by both Governments and the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive."

Even before the current health alert, the policy shift was coming.

Almost 2,000 murders from The Troubles, the majority carried out by paramilitaries, remain unsolved.

Within the Conservative Party, there was disquiet about the pressure to pursue retired soldiers, police officers, the intelligence services and the state for grave criminal activity. No ceiling could be put on what was an escalating, significant bill.

What is termed an independent body will swiftly assess is there new compelling evidence and a realistic prospect of prosecution. If not, victims' families will be provided with as much information as possible and the investigation process will stop.

This is a departure from what was agreed with the Irish Government and Northern Ireland's political parties.

Families, victims' organisations, some political parties, Dublin and legal firms are likely to be alarmed.

But the British government may feel it has the numbers in Westminster to proceed.

Mr Coveney's statement added: "In terms of the issues the UK Government has raised today about the treatment of British military veterans, our position is again clear.  There should be effective investigations into all Troubles-related deaths, regardless of the perpetrator. 

"We would not support a proposal to introduce any special measure or treatment, regarding investigation of state or non-state actors in Northern Ireland."