“I know we have been set up by the British Government..”

The co-chairmen of the Consultative Group on the Past were interviewed on Will Crawley’s Sunday Sequence this morning, sound file available here [RealPlayer file] for now, and they have insisted they will publish their report privately if necessary, although I wasn’t aware of any threat not to publish it. Meanwhile those anonymous sources close to the group have been at it again, this time adding another contentious issue into an already contentious debate. From yesterday’s Irish Times [subs req]

The consultative group, it is understood, is trying to determine whether it can receive reciprocal commitments from the IRA and representatives of the British security forces that they would co-operate in helping to establish the truth about the Troubles, which would assist the bereaved, and the maimed and wounded victims of the Troubles.

It is also seeking to establish whether the IRA, in its dealing with the group, would be prepared to make a “solemn declaration or covenant” that it would never again use violence in pursuance of political ends.

One source said that such a commitment from the IRA could be pivotal in deciding whether Sinn Féin and the DUP would be able to reach agreement on the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Executive.

The DUP insists that “IRA structures” such as the army council must be dismantled before these powers could be devolved.

Interestingly, Will Crawley raised the question of the Consultative Group being part of a deliberate strategy to tie together all those various elements. [RealPlayer file, approx 10mins in] Both men seemed to acknowledge that it might indeed be the case, but they emphasised that their focus is beyond any such strategy.

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  • Paisleys clone – NOT

    Pete the real player file is only 1min long. It doesn’t give the section you quote. Any ideas where I can find it?

  • Pete Baker

    The link works for me but you can find the relevant section here

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve edited the final line of the original post because, on listening again, Robin Eames isn’t as acknowledging of that apparent strategy as I first thought.

  • Paisleys clone – NOT

    Pete your link works ok, and it is advertised as you describe but once into the show it is last weeks show re the controversy about the woman and the pulpit.

    Drats!!

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve just listened to it.

    Go here

    and scroll down to the ‘highlights from the latest programme…’ list for the item listed as “Dealing with the past: Lord Eames and Denis Bradley”.

  • Paisleys clone – NOT

    I did do Peter, but no joy. It is still coming up the 1.32 mins.

  • The Penguin

    Pete

    I thought it was a fasinating interview.
    The politician-like and flustered response, such as it was, to the question on briefing of selected members of the media, left me in no doubt as to who actually did the briefing – or at least whose big idea it was.

    In the briefing, the “Prods will be devasted, though I don’t like to use the word” line was a clear attempt to plant the idea that all sides were as bad, or as good, as one another. Thereby paving the way for equal status by war declaration, and amnesty.

  • The Penguin

    Sorry, should be “devastated” for the pedants amongst us.

  • Paisleys clone – NOT

    Penguin,

    Did you hear the show or listen again re the link? I’d be very interested in the ecumenical part.

  • Great post, will Slugger be broadcasting via Blog Talk Radio this year? Thanks

  • joeCanuck

    Great headline, Pete.

  • Turgon

    I know this is pretty damning and I do not necessarily believe that these two men are part of a vast conspiracy but I note that they did not entirely refute the suggestion that this process was part of getting P+J devolved; they kept speaking about “moving society forward” which can be code for whatever one wants it to mean.

    They completely failed to answer the question about leaking, Crawley was too polite an interviewer to push them and in fairness Sunday Sequence is probably not the best vehicle to call them to account for these leaks.

    In addition they very rapidly dismissed the suggestion that their activities might be counter productive and actually stoke bitterness and hatred.

    Whilst the fact that they are not going to name names from secret documents may well be reasonable it does mean that a line will not have been drawn for any side in this. This process will not and cannot be any form of a truth process yet it has by its very nature and the statements leaked (quite clearly by sources extremely close to Eames and Bradley) raised such expectations that the report will cause anger yet not produce concrete answers. I very much doubt any real truth whatsoever will come out of all this. If it did that would increase bitterness a great deal. Even this report will, I submit, simply do this to a lesser extent.

    Honest men whilst I am sure Eames, Bradley and the others may be; I feel they have bought into an agenda in which this is perceived to be the right thing to do. That view was set before they started, it was never going to be changed whatever they heard. They believe their task is vital and they have completely failed to grasp the possibility that their whole enterprise is flawed in both its inception and its out working. They lack the vision to understand how much damage they may do; or possibly they understand yet lack the courage to stand up and say that this is a very bad idea.

  • DC

    Turgon,

    Re BBC interviewers, it seems to be an ongoing problem i.e. being to easy on interviewees.

    Stephen Nolan over Paisley’s sleaze almost sounded like he was made up for Jnr in what he tried to do.

    Secondly, Noel Thompson was putting down any suggestion of sleaze from the SDLP re the DUP over the whole charade of back-handers at St Andrews.

    Thirdly, now this issue of being too backward over the CGP’s take on things.

    Obviously you can’t go in too hard or you might lose the opportunity for further scoops and interviews but to appear to be blase about certain matters is not good either especially whenever strong views are out there and needing to be explored by probing journos who can apply vigour.

    Sometimes a bit of tabloidisation is good to test the mettle but only a bit and where appropriate.

  • Dewi

    “It’s a murky world you live in” – Indeed – difficult, heartbreaking and maybe premature. I’m convinced however that the focus on the future is correct and also not averse to the selective leaking.

    The anger is apparent on the discussion forum however and not all the usual suspects.

    I think we can all agree they have a difficult job. Wonder if report publication will beat Saville?

  • The Penguin

    Paisleys clone – NOT

    Sorry for the late reply, only just looked back in.
    I listened to the whole show, I always do (best one on RU IMHO).

    The ecumenical thing was a story that came up week’s ago, I was surprised this morning that it had been reurrected.

    Strictly speaking, it wasn’t an ecumenical service as such, but it WAS Paisley partaking with a priest in a non-denominational, bland thanksgiving for the scout movement.

    His statement of denial, as ever, went way over the top, with a strong hint that he had been ambushed, which will only raise further doubts amongst those that actually give a flying one (of which I am not one, I hasten to add, but I do really enjoy seeing him have to squirm over anything).

    As for the BBC soft interview style raised by other posters. This is now policy, or as near as damn it, within the BBC, built on the notion that it has to support “the process”.
    Which, in effect, means not saying or doing anything that might rock the Executive boat too much.

    Holding power to account, and exposing and challenging too much the waffle, deceit and plain wishful thinking nonsense that passes for forward planning here, if it ever was an objective, certainly ain’t one now.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It sounds to me like this group is exceeding it’s brief. It is there to provide a report back to the British government. It is surely not there to attempt to determine whether or not the recommendations it makes within the report stand any chance of being implemented. In fact, it almost sounds as if it is trying to implement it’s recommendations before it has reported on them.

  • Paisleys clone – NOT

    Thanks penquin. I thought I’d missed something new, but if its the same story thats alright then.

    (I am still unable to access the real player file. 1.32 is all I’m getting. It may have something to do with the new version of real player I’ve installed. Can’t figure it out, I’ve no problem with anything else.Teach me to listen into the show in the first place.)

  • The Penguin

    Comrade Stalin

    Too political, in the real sense of that, by far.

  • graduate

    I attended one of Lord Eames’s meetings and got the distinct impression that conclusions have already been drawn- call me a cynic but..
    Also, they really underestimated unioninst resistance to the notion of a war or any sort of amnesty. I think that with the House on the hill up and running there was a feeling that Prods would wear this without getting too wired up about it.
    Having been given such a bollocking about their perceived integrity I won’t be too surprised if their report isn’t put into the public domain. After all labour doesn’t like us to knowe what our rulers are doing

  • joeCanuck

    Try a reboot, Paisley’s clone.

  • The Dubliner

    The best means of dealing with the past is for U2 to hold a free concert in Belfast, wherein representatives from all of the violent parties to the strife can join Bono on stage for a group hug; swear that they’ll never do anything with that again because they’ve all moved on and things were very different back then, and then everyone can singalong to the chorus of One.

    In all of these shenanigans, everyone is a victim of the violence except those who were actually victims of it. Therefore, it is only those who haven’t suffered who need to move on with their lives. Clearly, those who haven’t suffered have suffered enough by not suffering and must not be made to suffer anymore by a nasty Truth Commission that is aimed at helping those who have suffered rather than those who haven’t. The needs of non-victims must therefore have absolute priority over the needs of the victims. This does not mean that we are a spectacularly selfish, vulgar, and uncaring society, even though others will wrongly form that impression about us: it means we are practicing a sophisticated form of caring which recognises that some needs are best met by completely ignoring them.

    A local consultative group is vulnerable to being compromised by domestic political pressures and considerations that void morality and genuine fitness-for-purpose criterion. More pertinently, it is vulnerable to social engineering that uses the media and other agents to manipulate the people into unwittingly giving the group a mandate to make recommendations that serve the State’s best interests, believing that mandate to be their own best interests. The State may then cite the group’s recommendations as the moral authority for its decision. Naturally, the State’s best interests are that its illegal shenanigans should not be investigated by any authority other than one which can be relied on to reach its conclusion in advance of examining the evidence. There is a blatant conflict of interest in allowing the allegedly guilty to investigate the allegations against them or to devise the method by which such allegations should be investigated, due to the inevitable practice of directly exonerating themselves of any wrongdoing; devising ‘impartial’ expedients which ensure that happy outcome, or simply declaring that the State has no case to answer.

    And just to be on the safe side if a Truth Commission cannot be avoided, the State may grant a general amnesty so that no former government minister or agent goes to jail if evidence of wrongdoing emerges. Of course, the State can’t admit that it primarily wants an amnesty to protect non-state actors from legal accountability (since such fortuitous provision de facto concedes likelihood of widespread wrongdoing), so it talks about amnesties for others but won’t distinguish between state and non-state actors in the provision. Yet what function can an amnesty serve that justifies granting immunity to the guilty? In this context, none whatsoever. Amnesties are only justifiably granted to regimes in order to protect the military and political elite as a means of encouraging them to transfer power to the new authority on peaceful terms. Ergo, the applicable moral equation is justice for outstanding crimes must be foregone in order to avoid further injustice. To provide an amnesty that is conditional on testimony is outrageous, but not as obscene as the suggestion of a blanket amnesty for everyone and for all offences irrespective of testimony. If all are granted an amnesty, a Truth Commission can serve no punitive or restorative function. Why do you think Martti Ahtisaari is in the group? He knows all about granting sweeping amnesties for past crimes.

  • The Dubliner

    Continued

    Is a consultative group really needed to decide the issue? No, but it is needed to provide cover for a government which hasn’t the slightest intention of owning up to what it was doing in NI for nearly three decades. A quick visit to Truth Commission will tell you all you need to know about their functions.

    Truth commissions can be established to serve several distinct purposes. They are most commonly envisioned to clarify what has happened, i.e. to establish a common truth and history about past human rights abuses. They can bring partial justice in ascribing individual guilt and responsibility. They can serve to bring a divided and war torn country together, compensate victims, or heal the rifts than run through a given society and further reconciliation. Lastly, they can hope to ensure that past human rights abuses will ‘never again’ happen in a country. The recommendations truth commissions are mandated to make reflect each of these purposes.

    A mandate can therefore call for recommendations that are:

    Descriptive and analytical, i.e. tell the truth and establish an account of past human rights violations,

    Punitive, i.e. establish guilt,

    Restorative, i.e. attempt healing, compensation and reconciliation, or

    Prescriptive/ reformative, i.e. suggest systematic institutional change.

  • I remember Eames being named by the NIO as one of its key point-men “champions” in flogging the GFA to the unionist community. To see him now front the neo-Orwellian Consultative Group on the Past is now surprise. He’s a stooge and we all know it.

    For him to now pose as some sort of brave independent voice who will publish and be damned fools no-one. He plays the revisionist role, along with Bradley, as the re-write of history continues apace. Everything about this government created and appointed quango smacks of manipulation and no better man that dear Eames to front it.

    Maybe William Crawley could have tried asking a few tougher questions?

  • The Dubliner

    Typo time: “…it primarily wants an amnesty to protect state actors from legal accountability…”

  • Freddie, west belfast

    Really interesting interview. I am convinced Crawley’s “conspiracy” theory is right: these guys are part of a strategy to bring SF into policing and criminal justice. The panel struggled on the question of why there was no victim on the group. That’s obvious, a victim would out the whole thing. So the govt went for a safe pair of hands. I think you could predict the final report on the basis of this interview. ALso its clear from this that Denis is the leak man!

  • Paisleys clone – NOT

    YES!! YES!! YES!!

    Got it!

  • Rory

    I just so loved the idea that was being floated that perhaps “the IRA, in its dealing with the group, would be prepared to make a “solemn declaration or covenant” that it would never again use violence in pursuance of political ends”.

    Pity that the Royal Navy is not enjoying any “dealing with the group” – otherwise they might be asked to make a“solemn declaration or covenant” never again to go a-sailing on the briny ocean. Aarrr, Jim lad!

    The experience gained by all those mad imperialist adventurers wading through jungle and swamp has certainly paid off. They can spot a bunch of pliant pygmies when they see them and know how to corral them into a committee.

  • The Dubliner

    “…these guys are part of a strategy to bring SF into policing and criminal justice.”

    That’s just muddied waters so that you don’t see the State sharks escaping the justice net.