No one who saw Eames-Bradleys’ initial brief, never mind their specific terms of reference, could do much other than shake their head slowly in sympathy for two decent men charged with an impossible task. Whatever came out of the machine, was always likely to fall under the category of ‘political football’. Paul Bew’s on the Today Programme contribution from Paul Bew this morning tricks out first the context for the critical reaction, and then what may prove its most fatal flaw; the imperative for telling the truth.
First that controversial £12k:
“The authors of this report are actually rejecting the idea of a hierarchy of victims and they are responding to a real difficulty in that we currently have a number of inquiries, Bloody Sunday and a number of others, looking at only a very small number of victims when over three and a half people have died. The difficulty that Eames and Bradley are faced with is that society is saying “we don’t like that hierarchy of victims, please give us something else”. They have come out and given us something else- the solution being that the family of everyone who died should get £12,000. And the reaction from people seems to be “well actually, we didn’t like that hierarchy of victims, but we still think there is a hierarchy of victims, and we’re not prepared to give equal treatment to terrorists”.
Towards the end he notes the asymetrical effect that such a time bound legacy enquiry is likely to produce in the context of a committed silence from all but the state actors in the conflict:
Lord Eames and Dennis Bradley hope this could help perform a work of major reconciliation. There is a difficulty here about such an inquiry which for example will look at some important issues like the ethnic cleansing of Protestants in border areas. But the difficulty is, who is going to tell the truth?
In particular, do we have a clear and unambiguous statement from the IRA that it is going to contribute? Now don’t forget that the security forces are responsible for only 10% of the deaths in Northern Ireland. The Lion’s share lies with Republican and Loyalist terrorists and within the terrorist community, the IRA.
If we haven’t got a clear statement – and remember currently we have a situation where Gerry Adams will say “I am not a member of the IRA” – how much truth are we really going to get?
And alternatively, the organisations which have documents are the police and the security services, the way this thing will work is that you have everything baring more heavily down on the people who are responsible for a small share of the deaths.”
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