Dealing with the past. Inquiries are over. The politicians must come clean. It’s time to stop paying lip service to victims.

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You can’t say she’s not even handed . Theresa Villiers will not allow case reviews or inquiries into the Ballymurphy massacre and the la Mon atrocity. She says sorry to the victims but it’s not in the public interest. That’s it.

It’s about time the penny dropped.

After the de Silva review which exposed a long catalogue  of collusion, there will be no further inquiries or reviews in the lifetime of this coalition government. Mrs Finucane will continue legal process as far as to the Great Supreme Court in the Sky but to no avail. Inquests, some delayed for a decade or more, will sputter on. The odd criminal case review required by a London- based commission will result in the odd “unsafe “ conviction being quashed. There may be more random pre- 1998 prosecutions for horrors like McGurk’s bar.

The British government agree with the chief constable and Haass, that “past” cases should be handed over to a new historic investigations unit from the tarnished HET, the police ombudsman and the PSNI, but it will not have the sweeping powers to reopen cases called for by Amnesty International. And the local parties have to agree to it.

No more inquiries is the first reality to face. The second is that victims and survivors are not and never have been paramount. It would be more than kindness to tell them so. The local parties, fearful of being tripped up by the other side and the cry of betrayal from their own, continue to stall and posture. Rows over amnesties and comfort letters are essentially diversions.

Why is the British government in the driving seat when police and justice has been devolved to Stormont? Two reasons. “National security” which encompasses the sharp end of the Troubles legacy remains with Westminster. And secondly the British government owns most of the archives. “National security” requires continued secrecy about how to infiltrate groups and communities to produce informants. Westminster will be unmoved by anybody quoting the public inquiry immediately announced into police spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign a decade and more ago. Ireland is different.

Given this implacability, what might shift things along a little?. Mrs Villiers gave us a rare clue a couple of weeks ago.

I appreciate the understandable concern that new structures and processes could lead to a one sided approach which focuses on the minority of deaths in which the state was involved rather than the great majority which were solely the responsibility of the terrorists from whichever part of the community they came….But I’ve also made very clear that if the architecture proposed by Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan forms part of a package eventually agreed by the political parties here, then the UK government will play our part in working with the new institutions.

This seems to recognise the idea of one sided justice which is rejected by nationalists and human rights campaigns. Nevertheless, the Stormont parties are encouraged to adopt a more even handed approach to justice than that adopted by the Finucane centre and the committee for the administration of justice. Then we’ll see…

It would greatly help if the Attorney General John Larkin and the DPP Barra McGrory explained why the evidential trail has gone permanently cold. Indeed it’s surely their duty to do so. There are plenty who believe it could be  warmed up with more diligence and commitment .

But the truth is that justice will continue to come dropping slow, piecemeal, sporadic and random, with no end in sight. If the future depends on the past we’re in for a bleak one. The most that might be achieved is a role for academics such as Arkiv and investigative journalists to build up narratives and explore themes and patterns of events on the basis of available sources and whatever archives as might be opened. This would let us know as objectively as possible what can be made known, puncture some of the more egregious myths and leave further questions open for the next stage. It stands the only chance there is of ever making cracks in omerta through genuine debate on the basis of well-gathered evidence and analysis.

These things take a long time. In the Republic the contents of the Bureau of Military History is now being quarried for new material on events from 1913 to 1921 – significantly leaving out the civil war of 1922-24/5. The material was collected decades after the events between 1947 and 1957 and locked away until 2001 when it was made publicly available. Charles Townshend’s latest history The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence shows how much is still to be told about the the revolutionary period of almost a century ago. The pressure of modern communications suggests we could be quicker – but how much quicker is up to the local parties who in some cases have a lot to hide.

As for victims it’s surely a disgrace to stall for so long over their misery. They are not the priority. On who is, they can draw their own conclusions.

 

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  • Ruarai

    “Ireland is different.”

    And always will be. Some union.

  • Charles_Gould

    Seems all a tad too convenient for HMG/SF

  • cynic2

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27221518

    “The controversial On the Runs scheme in Northern Ireland was ……….. “damaging to the criminal justice system”, according to a key advisor to the attorney general.”

    He also said he ” wouldn’t describe it as corrupt”

    Funny, I would!!!

  • Barnshee

    I recommend

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/tables/index.html
    and
    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/victims/mckeown/#dataset

    Particularly- the latter which provides an excellent searchable database of er–the facts

    I will share one (with more to follow)

    The RUC are shown as responsible for 51 deaths during the troublers

    These break down as

    Killed during Gun Attacks on police 20
    Killed During a riot 15
    Killed During a criminal act 13
    Member of security forces killed by “friendly fire” 3
    Total 51

    One can only marvel at the ability of the Brits to organise the appropriate gun battles,civil commotion and still ensure that state forces were in place to be the victims of “friendly fire” and “collusion”

    I suggest a compare with -say the INLA before we come to the REALLY big murder gang the IRA
    Watch this space

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, Brian. Someone talks sense at last. Your headline says it all.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Gerry Adams has been arrested,

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t have anything new to suggest about how to deal with the past but I do think that more attention ought to be given to those of Healing Through Remembering who have consulted,reflected deeply and tested many ideas.

    I agree with those including my own Alliance party who are calling for a comprehensive approach rather than the current reactive piecemeal approach. Following this, I suppose an anthropological approach fits the bill….recognition that,aside from established facts, there is no one narrative which will satisfy hence multiple narratives, versions of experience, are necessary to bring out complexities and highlight different perspectives. As I imply, there is no one truth but many.

    It has always been a disappointment to me that academics have been of so little use to us when people were wreaking the place (to quote title of Jonathan Stephensons book) and I certainly would not trust Arkiv to write up a narrative as record of the past. As a rule I do not trust journalistic accounts either but some investigations of The Detail are, I concede, excellent.

  • Jagdip

    Gerry Adams arrest (as reported by BBCNI)

    If Republicans create a stink about the killing of civilians in Ballymurphy, then the State will press its case against Republicans for unresolved incidents/atrocities in the 1969-1998 Civil War.

    Crystal?

    End of.

  • tacapall

    “The RUC are shown as responsible for 51 deaths during the troublers

    These break down as

    Killed during Gun Attacks on police 20
    Killed During a riot 15
    Killed During a criminal act 13
    Member of security forces killed by “friendly fire” 3
    Total 51″

    What about those 120 people murdered by the Glenanne gang who were mostly RUC officers, what about those 20 odd people murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF who were controlled by the RUC, what about those 7 people murdered with weapons the RUC supplied to the UDA, what about Patrick Finucane, murdered by RUC agents, conspiracy to murder carries a life sentence too and all the above people were murdered by people who were aided and abetted by members of the RUC.

  • Kevsterino

    Decrees from Westminster officers are only in effect for the term of HMG, right? So, while this means that no more will take place while this coalition are in government, it doesn’t necessarily mean no more inquiries, tribunals, special committees etc. etc. for all time.

    At any rate, perhaps once this cycle of mutual incrimination is put ‘on pause’, the folks who have taken responsibility for running the place can come up with some agreed regime for dealing with the mysteries of the past and the needs of victims’ families for closure. The latter bit there is the real conundrum. If the victims’ families are led to believe that they can expect justice in the traditional sense of the word, I think they are being cruelly misled.

  • Aim Here

    Barnshee,

    The CAIN databases tend to classify killings based on who a particular person was ostensibly working for (so when members of the state do pull the trigger, CAIN doesn’t record it that way), and of course a lot of the collusion involved British state actors supporting paramilitaries with information, arms and various other types of support, rather than doing the shooting themselves (one of the main purposes of this type of collusion is deniability, after all).

    For a few examples where the state DID pull the trigger, the killing of chemist William Strathearn by RUC officers Billy McCaughey and John Weir in 1977 is classed in the McKeown database as having been committed by an ‘Irregular’ agency. The Miami Showband killings are also classed as ‘Irregular’, and the two perpetrators who also killed themselves in their botched explosion are classified as ‘UVF’; both were also serving UDR members at the time. The killing of the innocent Michael Tighe by the RUC in the famous ‘shoot to kill’ hayshed incident is recorded in the spreadsheet as a ‘Counter Insurgency Ambush’, and I don’t even see which of your four given classifications it would be in.

    This doesn’t invalidate the database – you just have to recognise that the spreadsheet is recording who the killers were ostensibly working for when they committed their crime. Other relationships and affiliations aren’t usually recorded, so you can’t use CAIN to prove their nonexistence.

    Besides, you have to be careful with that database for other reasons too; the Mckeown list tends to have far too many female victims with names like ‘Kenneth’ and ‘James’. There are obvious errors in it.

  • zep

    I have asked this before on here – for the people who killed and maimed, or who assisted with killing and maiming, or who colluded in killing and maiming by letting their property be used, or hiding a weapon, or passing on information or a vehicle registration or a photofit sheet, or by not arresting someone, or anything else – for these people, what is the motivation to tell the truth? Why would they ever do that? To put their own conscience at rest? Maybe – we haven’t seen too many do that so far, and those that have spoken frankly have been frank within their own limits (where was David Ervine going with his bomb? What other bombs did he manufacture?)

    There is no motive to talk about the truth, about who did what to whom and on whose orders. What we have here is more akin to post-Franco Spain. Only now are they starting to (literally) dig up the skeletons, and even now it isn’t a popular move.

  • Barnshee

    “What about those 120 people murdered by the Glenanne gang who were mostly RUC officers, what about those 20 odd people murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF who were controlled by the RUC, what about those 7 people murdered with weapons the RUC supplied to the UDA, what about Patrick Finucane, murdered by RUC agents, conspiracy to murder carries a life sentence too and all the above people were murdered by people who were aided and abetted by members of the RUC.”

    These are all in the database with the murder gang responsible clearly identified. Where is there is evidence of supporting action by others– groupings or individuals

  • cynic2

    Banshee

    Wheres all your evidence

    A book by Anne Cadwallahner doesn’t cut it. One witness (God help him for what he went through) knew they were police because they wore boots like Police wore!!!

  • FuturePhysicist

    I think Brian to expect those killed by British Defence and Security forces to be satisfied by the line “National Security” as a defence of non-disclosure would simply show how grossly insensitive the United Kingdom is in comparison to the Republic of Ireland.

  • FuturePhysicist

    If Republicans create a stink about the killing of civilians in Ballymurphy,

    Killing civilians is enough of a stench, justifying it by blaming republicans for the mistakes of the British Defence forces is even more sickening, then using “National Security” as an amnesty mechanism … Why are we surprised that people who’s innocent loved ones were killed by the British Defence force don’t forgive, love and praise them from the rooftops because their loved ones died “for the cause” of National Security?

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “A book by Anne Cadwallahner [sic] doesn’t cut it. One witness (God help him for what he went through) knew they were police because they wore boots like Police wore!!!”

    @cynic2,

    My copy of Cadwallader’s book finally arrived from the UK several months after Xmas and I was eventually able to clear time in my schedule to read it. I found the first half very convincing. She seems to have mostly used HET files of cases along with the reports of the Irish state inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. She demonstrated that there was widespread collusion between figures in the RUC Special Branch, ordinary RUC members in the murder triangle and the UVF. She also convinced me that there was security force involvement in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, whereas J. Bowyer Bell failed to convince me in his book on the subject, because she presented extra evidence from a British army bomb disposal specialist who examined the remains of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and found them to be similar to IRA bombs and different from loyalist bombs. So either the UVF was taking false credit for an IRA bombing against ordinary Irish civilians or the bombs or at least bombmaking material was supplied to the UVF by either the British army or the RUC.

    I didn’t find the second half of the book as convincing where she made the case for widespread collusion based on other British colonial cases. It was clear from this that she had no clue as to what psuedo-gang warfare was and how it operated and why it was used. Either that or she thought that somehow using loyalists against ordinary Catholics was somehow the same as using turned insurgents to further infiltrate and destroy the insurgency as was done widely in Kenya, Rhodesia, and Namibia. My other major complaint with the book was the lack of a map showing the murder triangle and pinpointing where the major incidents took place. It is beyond me how the publishers let the book be published without such a map.