Interesting to note that the Legacy Commission proposed by the Consultative Group on the Past is time-limited to only 5 years [and then? – Ed] – as the BBC’s Vincent Kearney says, “The idea is that this would be a final, comprehensive review and that when its remit ends, the door would finally be closed on the past.” That’s despite Denis Bradley commenting previously on the amnesty such a ‘line in the sand’ implied. In his response to the proposals the Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchison, emphasised a point he had made before, “Even if you could draw a line under the past Im not sure you should..”. The hope that a Legacy Commission could deal effectively with the issues under its remit within that time-frame, or even a slightly extended time-frame, would depend on full co-operation by all involved. They haven’t necessarily had that during the writing of the report. And on TalkBack today Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams was non-committal on his future co-operation. The Belfast Telegraph picks up on another issue in the background – ‘Troubles body wants apologies and pledges’. Which seems unlikely.. But the report also notes
The report said allegations of collusion between security forces and loyalist killers can be the subject of a report by the Legacy Commission. It said: “Based on the information presented to the group, it considers that there remain serious questions to be answered concerning allegations of collusion.”
It notes some communities bore the brunt of the Troubles and suffered at the hands of “their own paramilitaries”, plus a heavy security presence. It noted: “While the Group recognises that intelligence gathering is an integral part of security activity, the sense of oppression was even further increased by the numbers of people who were recruited by the State and induced to act as informers. The Group was told that a significant number of such agents were recruited, many more than was imagined at the time.”
That’s something that Denis Bradley has also referenced before.
“The scale of the use of informers throughout the conflict corroded the fabric of our communities and the constant pressure now exerted for information about informers to be revealed only serves to further undermine the well being of communities to a degree that could be poisonous.”
But when he did so he argued that full disclosure would not be possible
“Would the republican community like to have to tell an ageing mother that her martyred son was actually an informer? That is what full disclosure could mean.”
My own view then, and now, is that they would be much more concerned about naming those still alive..
And without full disclosure, as Mick said, “As past experience shows, partial disclosure is not only less satisfactory, it is also highly amenable to political manipulation.”
It’s also worthwhile remembering this line from September 2007
Some Executive Ministers and other MLAs would be appalled and humiliated if details of their past activities were exposed by a truth commission, the head of the Police Federation said yesterday.
And going back to Gerry Adams’ non-commitment to co-operation with a Commission.. A quote from an interview Adams gave to the Guardian, also in Sept in 2007. [Was he asked another ‘stupid’ question? – Ed]
“So we can poke through the embers of the last 30 years, and in fairness Im not very interested in doing that.”
As Liam Clarke said in his article comparing the proposals with a ‘bad bank’.
There are no easy choices or pat solutions, but hard cases make bad laws. A system of private conversations after which information is passed on only where it is affirming and comforting would be a travesty of truth recovery. Such a sanitised, fairy-tale version of reality would, in the long term, perpetuate prejudice and division. We need an ambitious scheme to publish information that is now withheld. Reconciliation cannot be built on lies or half-truths. Even a bad bank has to settle its debts some day.