Three prominent ‘nationalist’ victims groups according to PA, outlined a number of concerns about the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill. They are not happy, for not entirely dissimilar reasons that ‘unionist’ victims groups are not happy. The legislation will limit the degree to which any relative will have access to details of the true circumstances of the death of their loved ones. Relatives for Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten, are concerned that the British Government alone will be able to appoint special tribunal and prosecutor. It would prefer to internationalise the process to ensure independence.
Other concerns were:
:: The Northern Ireland Secretary would have the power to direct that an individual who applies for a certificate should remain anonymous.
:: The British Government can direct that all information surrounding a certificate application be withheld from relatives.
:: Decisions on what if any information should be provided to families is discretionary.
:: No allowances had been made for international involvement in the scheme as was the case with prisoner releases, policing reform, decommissioning and the talks process.
:: No proper provision is made for the involvement of relatives;
:: The Northern Ireland Secretary would have sole power to appoint the certification commissioner who would also be open to political interference.
:: An applicant must supply any information or document required by the commissioner but the Northern Ireland Secretary can direct that the PSNI withhold documents and information from the same commissioner;
:: The Government could also withhold information from the certification commissioner.
The Relatives for Justice: “The only truth recovery process that will enjoy cross-community and cross border support is one that has international involvement from the outset”.
It sounds like an internationalised Truth and Justice Commission. But there doesn’t seem to be any great appetite for that amongst any of the political parties.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty