Should Northern Ireland Revisit the Eames-Bradley Report?

14 views

In a wide-ranging interview on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence this morning (interview starts at 45 minutes), former members of the Consultative Group on the Past, Denis Bradley and Rev. Lesley Carroll, made a passionate plea for people in Northern Ireland to begin the process of engaging with the substantive issues raised in the Group’s Report (the Eames-Bradley Report), which has been effectively shelved.

The past continues to make headlines in Northern Ireland, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that ignoring the consequences of the Troubles, particularly the incalculably high human costs, is neither a moral nor a politically astute option.

Bradley urged the British and Irish Governments to now take the lead in dealing with issues around the past. Bradley said:

The British government and the Irish government have to deal with this issue. And they need to deal with it in consultation with our local politicians, but they need to take the lead on it. … Our politicians are fearful of taking the lead and perhaps are not capable of taking the lead. But they can follow on this one.

Presenter William Crawley suggested that the Alliance Minister for Justice, David Ford, might be well-placed to put the past on Northern Ireland’s agenda, but neither Bradley nor Carroll were able to indicate if Ford would be open to this.

Bradley pointed out that the Victims Commissioners have already recommended that our local politicians sit down and discuss issues around the past in a similar manner to the way that they sat down together and hashed out the political issues. He also suggested that Secretary of State Owen Patterson needs to take a more robust stance on dealing with the past. He said of Patterson’s earlier idea that a team of historians should be tasked with entangling Northern Ireland’s history:

If the Northern Ireland Office believes that is going to address the legacy of our past, I get frightened. … That will not address the issues that are out there and confronting people.

When Crawley asked Carroll if she would change anything about the report, she insisted that she would not. She pointed out that it was based on ‘days, weeks, hours, months’ of widespread consultation with people in Northern Ireland, and ‘what we came up with was our best guess at what could be done for everybody, taking everything into account.’

When Crawley raised the thorny issues of the £12,000 pound recognition payment, which derailed debate about the contents of the report before it even started, Carroll said:

Unfortunately the people in this society who have the capacity … to lead this debate in this society don’t take it beyond that [the recognition payment]. … If we are going to return to this [the recognition payment] … this is the first conversation I’ve had about this report in a number of years … then we’re not going anywhere.

She urged a more wide-ranging debate about the report, including the mechanisms it recommended such as a Legacy Commission and a Reconciliation Forum, saying:

What happened was we produced a massive report and there was a debate about a paragraph in it. There was not a debate about the report at all.

She said that as a Presbyterian minister, she deals regularly with the human fall-out of the Troubles and that we need to remember that it’s ‘the ordinary people who have suffered’ that the Report’s recommendations are designed to help.

Both Bradley and Carroll expressed some hope that the past was now less ‘raw’ and that Northern Ireland might be ready (almost?) to take a long, hard look at how to remember. I think that the Eames-Bradley Report has been woefully under-discussed (with the exception of the recognition payment, of course), and it provides the best place we’ve got to make a start.

  • Turgon

    Should Northern Ireland Revisit the Eames-Bradley Report?

    No. It was rejected as the dishonest, iniquitous nonsense it was. In the process of that rejection it destroyed the standing of its authors especially Eames: an entirely just outcome.

    It needs to be remembered that not only was the loathsome £12,000 integral to the report but in addition there was a road map for an amnesty and the attempt to claim we were all both victims and guilty.

    To this report the people of Ulster / Northern Ireland / the North of Ireland / the Occupied Six Counties (take your pick) said a resounding No.

    Now to the attempts by the unelected and unrepresentative peace processors to use the current issues of the past to resurrect their perverse report (and in the process their careers as professional and employed “peace processors”) we need to say Never, Never, Never, never.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “Should Northern Ireland Revisit the Eames-Bradley Report?”

    NO.

    It was binned no shelved, with the Ford Focus being just the crudest of its many failings, with a virtual amnesty being one of the most sickening. Unlike Turgon I might give Lord Eames the benefit of the doubt, and a chance to redeem his reputation if he were to say the whole thing was a major mistake.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    No. And of course its right and proper that we should ignore Eames and Bradley.
    It has not been “shelved”. It has been torn up and tossed in the rubbish bin of History, a better fate that it actually deserves.
    The fact that people like “Turgon” (not a republican) and myself (not a unionist) both see it for the nonsense that it is might give people the bizarre notion that if its condemned in two communities then it is some kinda recognition that it is “balanced” and therefore worthwhile.

    Clinging to the absurd notion that it is “increasingly clear” that ignoring (sic)……the Past etc is not a moral option.
    The implication that taking on the agenda of the Conflict Resolution people is somehow…..amoral or immoral…is frankly arrogant.
    I am…..I believe…..a totally blameless individual. I refuse to buy into the notion that its all my fault. And to his immense credit, “Turgon” is not doing any “mea culpas”.
    And it is extremely politically astute to ignore the whining of those who issued the Report.
    They believed that this is what the “communities wanted”. They themselves swallowed the hype about “victims” and seemed genuinely shocked at the reaction to their ill-considered findings.
    Id be surprised if David Ford, who is now actually in a “can do” role in Politics will ride to the rescue of his broad church friends in Platform for Change or Conflict Resolution. Maybe David (still a Church elder?) is as unconvinced about the moral argument as I am. Maybe as an astute politician he is convinced as I am that its politicaly astute to move on without a backward glance.
    It is after all the logic of 1998 Agreement.
    Mr Bradley and Rev Carroll need it pointed out that the rejection of Eames-Bradley and the marginalisation of victims in the 21st Century is actually the Good Friday Agreement for very slow learners.
    Flogging a dead horse…….or putting a dead parrot on a life support system will achieve nothing.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    oops gremlins….”the absurd notion that NOT taking on the agenda of the Conflict Resolution people is amoral or immoral.
    And I am happy to add “Drumlins Rock” to my list of blameless people.

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    This thread should be combined with the Zombie one. The report seems to be undead and requires urgent action to be put out of its misery.

  • Turgon

    I never claim to represent anyone one this web site save myself. If people like what I say or dislike that is for them.

    I suspect, however, that I would not be being unreasonable to point out that four serious commentators on slugger have now commented on this piece: myself and Drumlins Rock (unionists); FJH (moderate non violent republican) and JoeCanuck (nationalist).

    I hope I have been unfair to none of the above.

    My point is that four people with no less mandate (and no more) than the Eames Bradley Group and widely differing views on Northern Ireland are in complete agreement that this report has no value. It was completely rejected and just because some do gooder liberal dissidents want to resurrect it and their careers as professional (ideally paid) peace processors does not mean they should get their way.

    Indeed it is somewhat mawkish and distasteful that they abuse people like Miss Travers’ grief and subvert her wish for justice to try to recreate a report which offered no justice but instead the infamous Ford Focus.

    Last time the Eames Bradley report humiliated Eames and Bradley. Hopefully if assorted other do gooders try to resurrect it (and their peace processing careers) they too will be humiliated.

  • pippakin

    Eames Bradley was a dishonest report, I doubt it was ever intended to be taken seriously (except by Eames and Bradley who take themselves far too seriously). It was one of the things that bought time and enabled the peace process to ‘bed in’. For either man to look for more confirms the inadequacy of both.

  • alan56

    Eames Bradley is dead and buried and should not be exhumed. Its authors do themselves no service in trying to arrange a ‘ressurection’. Never bought into the line ‘we are all guilty’. Mmmm but not all lifted the bomb or gun.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    And I think we can add “Pippakin” to the list of serious commenters who rejects the risible nonsense of Eames-Bradley.
    We have as a Society humoured the “professional” peace makers for far too long. They reject any nuanced approach …..”dont hit me Im holding a baby” and we feel obliged to go easy on them because they are after all meaning well.
    When they assume a higher moral ground than the rest of us it is perhaps time to call the bluff.
    In 1998 Victims and Truth were paid lip service.
    The UUP and SDLP in office did little.
    Nor did/do DUP and Sinn Féin.
    Minister Ford will be no different.
    And it really is time that liberal dissidents realised it.

  • Greenflag

    NO -enough already

  • Mr Crumlin

    As someone who thoroughly enjoys playing devils advocate i’d like to ask how then do we deal with the past then?

    The trouble with the past is that it refuses to go away. The last few weeks has demonstrated its potential to cause havoc with the present.

    At one stage it will utterly shatter the present – how that actually plays out is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it will be the arrest of a prominent politician or the arrest of a former high ranking RUC special branch man.

    Eames Bradley is not the problem, never has been in my opinion. It is the fact that this issue was the one glaring omission from the political agreements. The political courage did not exist and it does not exist now – I say shame on the lot of them.

    Also to those who would wish the past away – the infamous ‘draw a line in the sand’ brigade – that is simply impossible to do. The justice system carries on – whether that is inquiries, HET, Police Ombudsman, coroners or whatever – they are dealing with the past in a disjointed and totally haphazard way.

    Drawing the line in the sand is an amnesty by another name!

    Now I believed that the biggest obstacle to dealing with the past was the IRA and that I didn’t believe they would ever engage with any commission. I thought that asking for it to be run by the UN was because they knew this would never happen. The Smithwick enquiry has made me question that assertion – if the IRA engaged with them why not engage on something short of a UN truth commission.

    If Owen Paterson was serious about the historians idea he should hang his head in shame as well – what a load of utter and complete bollocks.

    Too many of the posters above seem to have a personal grudge against Eames and Bradley. I did actually read that report at the time and while it was not perfect it did, at least, contain some sort of way out of this mess. Just because it upset a lot of people does not mean it was wrong. To dismiss it so lightly it lazy in the extreme.

    By the way – it was a war and there should be an amnesty (is that Turgon’s laptop exploding??) ;)

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    Just because it upset a lot of people does not mean it was wrong

    That’s a bit disingenuous, Mr.C. How would you then judge that it was right?

    As a sidebar and not that it matters a lot, I would not really consider myself a nationalist; more of an agnostic (realist) on the border question. I am pleased, however, to be considered a serious commenter.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Joe – It was undoubtedly unpopular but I think a lot of that was down to the £12k payout – I doubt, very much, that many people read beyond the headlines that created.

    I did – I thought it was thought provoking and should not be so flippently dismissed – its just my opinion.

  • Mick Fealty

    For reference, we made a commentable blog of the report which few here seem to have made use of. Mr C is not wrong in saying 12k blinded people to the rest of the contents.

    You can still get it here: http://www.consultationonthepast.org/

  • sonofstrongbow

    Of course we knuckle draggers saw the £12k and just flipped Eames-Bradley into the bin. I expect nothing more could be expected of ‘non-serious’ commentators.

    Allow me an unthinking, unsophisticated opinion: Eames-Bradley was a prime example of the Victim Industry at its worst disregarding any honest analysis it fell back on the ‘we are all guilty, we are all victims’ mantra. Although one suspects that these tablets of wisdom come from people who believe they inhabit some kind of moral Mount Olympus and do not consider themselves so tainted as we of the Great Unwashed. Like Monty P’s parrot it is dead.

    Winding forward to the ‘retired’ terrorists ‘engagement’ with the Smithwick Tribunal; Mr C seems to have some inside knowledge of the value of said ‘engagement’. Perhaps Mr C is in fact the Irish ‘M’? True engagement with any legal process is marked by giving evidence on the witness stand, as it appears RUC spooks are doing. Let’s see if the ‘Volunteers’ follow suit, without of course taking Marty’s 5th (honour code) amendment.

  • Turgon

    sonofstrongbow,

    I hope you are not insulted by my reference to “four serious commentors”. They were simply the first four comments. My point is that almost all of us here in NI oppose the Eames Bradley nonsense. Yes the Ford Focus (£12,000) is the most obvious odious part of it but as Drumlins Rock said possibly not the most odious.

    I think your comment about the peace processors claiming we were all guilty but quite clearly excepting themselves is exactly correct. So is the issue about the IRA’s involvement with Smithwick. They were clearly not willing to attend the tribunal and be cross examined as any real engagement would have involved.

    Incidentally it is nice to see both yourself and Limerick and a few other new unionist commentators about here.

    Regards

  • sonofstrongbow

    Turgon,

    Not insulted at all.

  • frank82

    I don’t really understand why the Eames Bradley report has attracted such a negative reaction. Looking at the main recommendations, with the exception of the £12k, the recommendations seem entirely reasonable. With the furore around the Mary McArdle appointment, it is clear that we need a process that allows us as a society to deal with the past. Victims feel locked out of the process and prisoners, both Loyalist and Republican, feel that their role in assisting the development of the peace process has not been acknowledged or accepted by mainstream opinion.

    I pick out four recommendations. What is wrong with these recommendations?

    The Reconciliation Forum would also have a mandate to promote the improvement of services for healthcare issues attributable to the conflict, such as trauma, suicide and addiction.

    The Chair of the Legacy Commission should be an International Commissioner, who would also have specific responsibility within the Commission for addressing society issues through the Reconciliation Forum, tackling sectarianism, promoting reconciliation and administering the bursary. There would be two other Commissioners.

    The mandate of the Legacy Commission would consist of four strands of work:
    – helping society towards a shared and reconciled future, through a process of engagement with community issues arising from the conflict;
    – reviewing and investigating historical cases;
    – conducting a process of information recovery;
    – examining linked or thematic cases emerging from the conflict.

    The Legacy Commission’s mandate would be for a fixed period of five years.

    With regard to the £12k, it was an attempt to acknowledge the hurt of victims. Our problem is that we have not agreed on the definition of a ‘victim’. A formal process might help to move us to the next stage.

  • http://www.gladysganiel.com/ Gladys Ganiel

    Thanks Frank82. I also think that many people, including people commenting on this blog, fail to acknowledge that the Report was produced after a consultation process. To claim that what is in the report doesn’t represent what at least some people in Northern Ireland think cannot be correct. The Consultative Group on the Past just didn’t make up their recommendations out of thin air.

    The Consultative Group on the Past went out and listened to vulnerable people who usually don’t shout loud enough to be heard. You notice there is not much debate on this comment thread about the recommendations that you mention, Frank82. Rather than actually talking about the recommendations, comments have descended into claims that the Report forces people to have a ‘we are all guilty’ or ‘we are all victims’ mentality. I just don’t think that this is the case.

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    The 12k part of the report was wrong but I prefer to adopt the “blue pencil” approach.

    So can we look at the rest of the report without that part of it?

    I concur with the comments of frank82 above

  • Turgon

    Gladys,
    You know I have a high regard for you personally. However, your claim that Eames Bradley came after a consultation process is highly disingenuous. They dismissed the majority of the written submissions they received. When their report came out some of the victims groups they supposedly consulted said that nothing they had said had been reported. Then Jarleth Burns made claims about unionist politicians and when told to put up or shut up he promptly did the latter.

    Sorry I cannot provide links for all these: as you may know more than two links drives the spam filter mad.

    The bottom line is that Eames Bradley was a totally flawed consultation: they had decided the report long before they consulted anyone and their report was roundly condemned and rejected by the vast majority of people. I always suspected that the peace processors would try to revive what is for them their central religious text but the simple reality is that it was, is and will remain an iniquitous piece of nonsense which destroyed Eames’s credibility and will tarnish anyone who supports it.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Fealty is of course right to point out that the £12,000 controversy blinded people to the rest of the contents of the Eames Bradley Report but it is such a key point not just in itself but on reflecting the kinda thinking which went into it.
    The £12,000 had the (wonderful) effect of killing off Eames-Bradley and any other like-minded future exercise. It would be bizarre if critics of Eames-Bradley failed to mention it. It is such a spectacular own goal by the apologists for Eames-Bradley or perhaps a great open goal for those of us who see Eames-Bradley as nonsense.

    If the culture of we are all victims and all responsible prevails….then we are all entitled to a wee touch ..perhaps £100 for every adult year (1968-1997) and £50 for every childhood year…..that would get me almost £3,000 and I could live with that. Then as I am “guilty” deduct £50 for every adult year ……..Id still do ok out of it. Problem solved.
    Of course the problem is that Truth and all that will cost money….yours and mine….and when money is spent……someone actually benefits. Perhaps. But their advocates will too….some bursary or academic “grant” to facilitate more “research” and another (yet another seminar).
    Norn Iron Conflict Resolution is the black sheep of the Conflict Resolution Industry. It must be embarrassing for the folks at QUB who host these seminars when the world family gathers from Iraq, South Africa, Bosnia etc. The Norn Iron people thru its elected representatives has set its face against the preferred models offered by the Conflict Resolution people. Nothing to report from here by way of academic research.

    The Conflict was however resolved….before the Conflict Resolution “industry” embraced us. We opted for an untidy and even contradictory end of prisoner release, lip service to victims (while disagreeing on who was a victim), Historic Police enquiry, no rea prospect of key people going to prison and of course Public Enquiry.
    Effectively the Conflict Resolution people have offered to help us tie up all our loose ends….and politely we have told them “no thanks we are ok as we are, thanks very much”.
    Frankly I am running out of polite answers to the persistence…..(Im the same with the weekly phone call from the people who want to sell me a new kitchen”.
    Its not helpful when the advocates of “conflict resolution” suggest that my stance is not “morally sustainable”.
    Consider me old fashioned but I suggest that the ex-prisoners voices is not one I am anxious to hear……
    “Frank 82″ agonises that ex-prisoners feel left out of the process and their contribution is not recognised.
    Frankly I can live with that.
    So can most people.
    Besides a lot of ex-prisoners have done very nicely out of the Peace Process. Stormont is full of them. Maybe loyalists feel harder done by.
    “Conflict Resolution” is a non starter in Norn Iron, because we didnt end the conflict as in the fall of Baghdad or Saigon or Berlin……..it wasnt resolved. Therefore Norn Iron is not fertile ground for a conflict resolutionist.

    One lesson that the greater number of people ..ordinary people learned about the Troubles was that they….we…..were the only people who didnt make a fortune out of it. Terrorists and their advocates and advisors did.
    So dont blame me for setting my face against people and their advocates doing finacially better than me out of the Peace.

  • Limerick

    fitzjameshorse,

    An excellent post.

  • lamhdearg

    it would not matter if it was 12000 or 120000000000000000000000000000000000000, it would not bring him back. i say no.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Thank you.
    Perhaps significantly Dennis Bradley is calling on the British and Irish Govts to do something. “Victims feel betrayed”.
    Perhaps there is something “in the air”.
    Perhaps some kind of “Commission” and maybe a whole host of the usual suspects are jockeying for position for posts on such a Commission.
    Of course ordinary folks like me….would be outside of the circle who know whats actually going on.
    But when the names are actually announced ….it will be interesting to see how many failed middle ground politicians are on board.
    Not to mention folks who have been vociferous campaigners for such a Commission.

  • lamhdearg

    fjh
    i bet one of them will be called, dawn.

  • pippakin

    The idea that some have built their entire career out of the victims is really abhorrent. The real victims are quiet voices rarely listened to until someone wants to make use of them. If anything this is one of the worst aspects of the peace process.

    The health service exists to help all the people if victims need more help, and many probably do, then that help should be channelled through the NHS and the Irish health service. If additional money is needed by individuals, and again it probably is, then that should be a private matter compassionately heard by the appropriate authorities

    .

  • frank82

    Fitzjameshorse1745, there was no agonising in my comment about the role of prisoners in the peace process. It was just an observation that they were singing from the same hymn sheet on the place of prisoners post conflict. I’ve just been reading Eamon Molloy’s excellent book on Brendan Hughes and David Ervine. Clearly the book is mediated through Eamon Molloy’s commentary, but there is a clear sense that republican and loyalist prisoners have a shared experience and were an important element of the peace process. Clearly that is why there were prisoner releases as part of the GFA/BA.

    Interesting, Turgon that you do not respond to the proposals I included. I don’t know whether the consultation process was flawed, but I respect both Dennis Bradley and Robin Eames. Consultation doesn’t mean that every shade of opinion is reflected. If they felt that 2000 letters were a concerted campaign by an interest group to overly influence the process, then they are entitled to make a judgement. You obviously don’t agree with that judgement, and neither do a number of posters to this forum, but how do we create a system that is fair to victims? And my definition of a ‘victim’ is someone who has been bereaved as a result of the conflict/troubles/war – whatever you want to call it – I don’t really care what people want to call it – i think legacy is as good a word as any. The problem of the ad-hoc arrangements that we have at the moment is that we are already creating a heirarchy of victims and I don’t think that is fair – why should only some families be able to find out the truth. Now perhaps I am being naive and not all parties would reveal what they know – but perhaps if the conditions were right, then they might and I’m happy to be optimistic. The Smithwick Tribunal is showing that there are those on the republican side who clearly feel that want to participate in a truth process and that is a positive sign.

    Eames/Bradley offered a way forward. I’m prepared to accept that the £12k was a big mistake, if only because you can’t put a price on the grieving process or on someone’s loss.

    I suppose a more fundamental question is ‘Do we need to deal with the past?’ Can we agree on that? Is the difficulty ‘how we deal with the past?’ If we don’t need to deal with the past, then Eames / Bradley or some alternative is a waste of time. If we do need to deal with the past, then we have to accept that the process will be a difficult one, one that we have to negotiate. I believe we need to deal with the past, so that we don’t end up making the same mistakes. It is clear that most people agree that we have got to a point where resolving our differences through violence achieves nothing. We may not agree on the destination or even if we are travelling, but we agree that violence solves nothing? Do we agree that we need to deal with the past?

  • Turgon

    Frank82,
    I am not obliged to respond to any and every comment directed to me. Actually I have been watching TV. However, I had a detailed blog on Eames Bradley (several in fact). I responded to almost all your points on this blog the evening Eames Bradley was published. I think I might republish it as it seems relevant to the current debate.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Frank 82,
    whether or not ex-prisoners had the role in the Peace Process that they actually claim….is one thing. But I think we can agree that they had a role in the War that preceded the Peace Process.
    Im not convinced they deserve more reward than…..(at random) …me.
    In fact I tend to think of myself as more deserving.
    A view not shared in the distorted world of Conflict Resolution.
    And of course loyalists and republican ex-prisoners are singing from the same hymnsheet………..theres money involved.
    Money……cash…… dough….moolah…..spondoolicks………brass…….boodle.

    Thats what its all about.
    Ordinary people wont get conned that its about anything else.

  • wild turkey

    “I also think that many people, including people commenting on this blog, fail to acknowledge that the Report was produced after a consultation process. To claim that what is in the report doesn’t represent what at least some people in Northern Ireland think cannot be correct. ”

    the above quote envinces a certain ignorance and definte arrogance on your part

    “people fail to ackowledge,”

    i mean really. your attitude is not only tedious but counterproductive. i refer you to my comments on brian walkers post on PfC

    like grannie trixie said in earlier post. your intentions are good and well meaning. i do not dispute that.

    but please, please. do not castigate those of us who find your public exercise of policitical and intellectual handjobbery somewhat tedious and offensive. stick to home matches. Yes?

    do you read john updike?

    Mahalo

  • frank82

    Turgon, I’ve just read your detailed blog on Eames Bradley. The point I was making was that the substance of Eames Bradley should be dealt with and I accept that your detailed blog does that.

    I don’t agree with all of your blog, but you are obviously entitled to your opinion. I think it is best to ignore the £12k and the associated briefing – clearly a spectacular PR failure. There is nothing that anyone can say to justify it.

    The main substance of your other arguments seem to be as follows and apologies if the paraphrasing is ham-fisted:

    ‘Insensitivity to a unionist perspective on the role of the forces of law and order’ – was this not Eames reflecting his own surprise at how the forces of law were prepared to engage with the paramilitaries – I would describe it as a naive comment on Eames’ behalf – he has clearly not read any thrillers or watched any recent tv drama – a flippant remark, but it is difficult to assess when the forces of law and order have crossed a line – depends on your political perspective – look at the comments surrounding the Rosemary Nelson inquiry.

    ‘A desire for collective responsibility for the past’ – this is difficult – at least I find it difficult – you may not – is there a context for why people get involved in paramilitary activity? clearly those people who have been involved have justified their activities – and before you accuse me of supporting paramilitary activities – I never have and never will – but I think the Eames Bradley statement was a desire to move forward rather than raking over the past – that is what is difficult – I understand that some people will see that as a desire to absolve participants of any blame – but I don’t accept the Maggie Thatcher line that murder is murder is murder – it’s more complicated – clearly there were many despicable acts and I would include the attempted murder of Tom Travers, coming out of church with his family and the death of Mary Travers – Murder is an awful business and those who perpetrated murder have to live with their deeds and will have to examine their own consciences in the final analysis. Justice is obviously not going to be satisfied – we can’t turn back the clock on the GFA. But I would rather not go back. What we have is much better – it is flawed but it is better than what we had in the past. Clearly the dissidents are a major threat. A Legacy Commission would finally marginalise them in my opinion.

    ‘Five years is too short’ – perhaps you’re right – but I do think we need a time limit – perhaps ten years.

    ‘Information recovery – a flawed process’ – I agree – If all the paramilitaries don’t sign up to it, then it is isn’t worth a damn – everyone has to participate – you would obviously need evidence of goodwill on behalf of the paramilitaries. There could be an embargo on information coming into the public domain, with the proviso that victims are an integral part of the process, on the inside receiving information. With regards to Gerry Adams, the dogs on the street etc – but it’s obvious why he doesn’t acknowledge his role – his cache is that he has operated at a different level, although Brendan Hughes clearly had his opinions.

    ‘Amnesty’ – The GFA effectively created an Amnesty – look at the Gerry McGeogh case – he’s hardly going to serve a commensurate sentence for the attempted murder of an UDR man.

    ‘Ex-prisoners being integrated back into Society’ – this is a difficult pill to swallow for many people, but I feel that since we effectively have an amnesty and there are a number of ex-prisoners in prominent roles, then they should have access to opportunities, opportunities that they obviously denied their victims. This is obviously difficult and needs some sensitivity. I’m not sure how that sensitivity is achieved. It certainly hasn’t been achieved in the case of Mary McArdle. I don’t think ex-prisoners’ past deeds should be removed from their CVs and they should not be given any special treatment. If they are qualified for a position, then they should be able to apply for any position – that’s not to say that there should be an obligation for anyone to employ them, but they should be able to put themselves forward – there may be particular roles that suit their experience – no smart-alec comments, please!

    Day of reflection – perhaps 21st June was not a great choice of day, but I do think we need a day to remember those who have died as a result of the conflict – a day when we can remember all those who have died, without any judgement on their participation. Remembrance Sunday will obviously remain as a key date on the calendar for those who want to remember the dead of the First World War and the Second World War, and those members of the RUC/PSNI and British Army / UDR who have died as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. Easter will still be a time for Republicans to remember those who fought for Irish Freedom. I would suggest putting the date out to further consultation – I would suggest 8th May or 13th October to reflect the signing of the St. Andrew’s Agreement or the date of the first assembly with Sinn Fein and the DUP.

  • SJanko

    If I could, I can understand the perspectives of all the posts thus far and have no intentions of offending anyone or proving anyone wrong – everyone has a right to contribute. Having just within the past week dedicated several hours to reading the report I do want to make a few clarifications, though.

    I don’t think I even need to address the issue of reparations – the has been widely criticized and unfortunately derailed the more important debate that should have resulted from the publishing of the report.

    In my opinion, the ‘we are all responsible’ commentary was misunderstood and over simplified; I believe this was not meant in the individual, literal sense that ‘every man and woman during the troubles personally had a hand in the atrocities that occurred’ but rather in the collective manner that no segment of society (as a whole) was blameless. For that, maybe clarification was lacking in the report but I don’t think the authors need to be crucified for that frame of thought. Innocent individuals are understandably a upset by this, and are partial to the feeling that the particular people who committed the crimes should be the sole bearers of responsibility, but in the current system, how will that come about?

    On the topic of amnesty, while some of their language may have been problematic, they do on several occasions note that amnesty is not their recommendation: “The Group is not proposing an amnesty but recommends that the Legacy Commission itself make recommendations on how a line might be drawn at the end of its five-year mandate so that Northern Ireland might best move to a shared future” (pp 19, 40). “It [the Group] has concluded that the possibility of bringing prosecutions should remain open and there should be no amnesty” (p58). “The Group has concluded that a general amnesty would not be appropriate in the present situation. Many families may need to adjust their expectations of criminal justice. But there was a strong view expressed by both politicians and victims in the Group’s consultation that the route of investigation and prosecution should be kept open” (p132). The issue of amnesty was raised in discussing limiting the scope of the Commission to 5 years to ensure that while the past would be addressed, it wouldn’t be dwelled upon and what action to take at the close of the Commission. Should the option for prosecution be continued past the proposed 5 years? Probably. Were Eames and Bradley saying that conclusively that should not happen? No.

    Though these are merely defenses of the semantics of the report, I do have a few other things to say. People seem objected to the report based on certain aspects and shortcomings such as the 12K reparation payment the same way as a good deal of GFA ‘no’ voters objected to the release of prisoners. The rejection wasn’t (from those I’ve discussed it with, not trying to speak for all) the idea of peace and cessation of violence, but rather the feeling that this was the right move, but that certain details weren’t acceptable and should be reworked. The same should go for Eames-Bradley; the underlying aim of the report was good, but certain aspects require re-thinking. The reintroduction of the topic may have been a way for authors to reinsert themselves into relevance, but it may also have been an honest attempt to rejuvenate a direly-needed debate about how to address the past. I’d find someone hard pressed to say (and support with evidence) that the conflict is over and done with in all aspects of society. Widespread campaigns of physical violence may be over, but what exists now is a cold, divided peace that really shouldn’t be accepted as ‘just the way things will be’.

    I am not a member of the so-called ‘peace processors’… In fact I’m a debt-ridden student with no misconceptions or delusions of profiting from any conflict or its aftermath. I just struggle to see how the current situation and the calls to ‘draw a line under the past’ are really more acceptable than well-meaning people proposing ways to acknowledge the past in order to move forward.

    My main point, which may have been lost by now in my wordiness, is that the report doesn’t need to come under such scrutiny for its particulars, which can all be explained away in whatever way one wants. It is the ‘substantive issues’ raised by the report that should be entering into the common debate and not falling silent. Is the Eames-Bradley report the conclusive way to deal with the what happened? I can agree with those who say no. But what is? Before lambasting this attempt, we should start providing alternatives.

    P.S. The 21st of June was chose by Healing Through Remembering because, in their attempt to find a date throughout the year where no casualties had occurred during the conflict they found there were none. The 21st is the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice, which I think is where the hippies at Stonehenge comment originated in the provided blog link) and therefore they decided it was best to dedicate the longest day possible to reflection.

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    frank82,

    A very thoughtful post. Thank you.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    SJanko…
    My objection to the “we are all responsible, we are all victims” line is not merely that I have taken offence on a personal level that I have been branded as a criminal on the same level as the three sides who (in my view) committed attrocities.
    Rather I take exception to the fact that the language has been usurped by the very people and groups who committed those attrocities. They attempt to justify their actions by bringing me to their level. I wont facilitate that.
    Secondly I am a lifelong student of History and the “we are all to blame, all victims” line is the opposite of any History..
    History is often accused of being the verdict of the Victor.
    But do we really go along with the line that WW2 was 50-50…that Nazi Germany was as “right” as the Allies. Or that Imperial Japan was equally right as the Allies? Or that the racist Confederacy was as “right” as the Northern Union.
    Or that the Apartheid regime was as “right” as the ANC?
    All those wars had Victors.
    Our little conflict had no Victor and we have resorted to another twisted version of History…..no Victor History where we are all 50-50 in blame and victimhood.
    Thats not compromise. Its mere splitting the difference.
    And no self respecting Historian should go along with the nonsense.
    Shame on those who go along with it (in the name of the greater public good).
    Its doubtful and probably not desirable that any Commission should aportion blame.
    It is therefore a meaningless exercise promoted by Conflict Resolutionists and some Journalists.
    Actual real people have no need of it…..a pointless exercise to satisfy academic curiousity and academic careerism.
    “Reparations” did indeed de-rail the Eames-Bradley attempts. I am glad that they did. It must be the mission of those of us who oppose the misguided nonsense to sabotage the next train before it leaves the station.

    Yet an interesting point emerges. Dennis Bradley (per BBC Teletext) calls on the British and Irish governments to breathe life back into this Process.
    I wonder if this is a cry of desperation or if the phone lines have already been busy between the British and Irish governments and insiders from Conflict Resolution. Is it all part of the choreography which last months “Royal Visit” started.
    Certainly such a Commission would be a big job requiring a lot of people and I sense that people are jockeying for position for when the names are announced.

    By a happy coincidence an tUachtarán is leaving office soon. A Northerner and a lawyer and probably with some goodwill stored up with unionists. Is she the person to job share with David Trimble, a lawyer (and a certain irony there too). Or Mary Robinson (lawyer and friend of unionists)might get the nod from a Labourite wing in the new Irish government.
    I could makea reasonable guess at who one of the Victims representatives might be. So could most Sluggerites.
    And a fair guess at which (ex) loyalist politician might have the ear of loyalists. And the chosen representative (a little known public figure) will represent republican interests. And Id hazard a guess at which middle ground (failed but highly respected) politician would be an ideal choice to look out for RUC interests.
    And probably two journalists in the twilight of their careers would want to serve on a Commission.
    Inevitably two historians/political scientists (with a southern input).
    And not forgetting Churchmen/women.
    Every experienced Sluggerite commenter could put together their own fantasy 12 person team.
    If such a Commission is every announced Slugger should run a sweep.

    My priority is my children and grandchildren who are enjoying the imperfect peace. A peace without a Victor. And no real good can come of attempts to designate a winner by apportioning blame or even not apportioning blame.

    “To Hell with the Future
    Long live the Past
    May God in His Mercy
    Be good to Belfast”.

    At one stage this verse ridiculed the sectarian bigots who chose to live in the past.
    Its a sweet sweet irony that it is yesterdays bigots who look to the Future.
    And the liberals who once ridiculed them that want to look at the Past.

  • pippakin

    fjh

    Well said.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “If all the paramilitaries don’t sign up to it, then it is isn’t worth a damn”

    Unless the IRA, responsible for over half the deaths and most of the destruction, agree to tell all, names, methods, dates, locations then any new process won’t be worth a damn. With their highest profile member in an imitation of the Emperor in his new clothes denying all, and the decades it took to get the location of a small number of graves its is obvious that is not going to happen.

  • Cynic2

    “how then do we deal with the past then?”

    ….by focusing on dealing with the future