Snap reaction to Report on the Past presentation

Not a live blog but some of the main elements of the Eames/ Bradley presentation that immediately struck me. It was quite impressive. Integrity combined with political wariness both shone through. There was a small wobble over the “acknowledgment payments” though but they got back on track. At almost an hour, the presentation was too long and apt to stray into sermonising. It was not a presser and they took no questions. Good to see that the disruption from Frazer and Wilson etc., was quite minor, although it was a reminder of the rawness beyond the Europa Hotel conference suite. It was a relief to hear Dennis Bradley calling for “honesty” that the chances of prosecutions after “ 30, 20 even 10 years.. are quite low”.

But we have heard the call for justice. We have kept the potential for justice open….. that is all some people have to hold on to.. That is why we have stopped short of recommending an amnesty.”

But we are really in fuzzy amnesty territory already and everybody knows it. Full honesty will have to wait another five years for the Legacy Commission to finish. Hugh Orde has just said that when the HET or the proposed legacy commission get to the end of the evidential chain, that was the point for third parties to come in. That suggests paramilitary admissions may be some way off.

Eames on the 12k “acknowledgment payment”

“ one of our hardest decisions; it provoked much soul-searching It did not come out of the blue.. (Critics) may think we are putting a monetary value on their loved ones.. this isn’t compensation by another name.. It’s a sign of their loss – we’re saying sorry for your trouble.. Were we too sudden?.. a mistake or wrong timing?.. if so we apologise.. We may have forgotten that we have been at this for 18 months.. It may take some people a little longer. But we hope at the end of five years, all the payments that can be made will have been made.”

So how will the payments system work? Will they be made after each case has been reviewed by the legacy commission or simply on application once the system has been set up?

Bradley on “story-telling” was fascinating. He did not make a direct appeal for the paramilitaries and security forces to confess but that is what he meant.

“It isn’t just our own stories that need to be heard. If it is only our own stories there is great danger in us becoming sectarian.. We need to hear community stories, policing stories, army stories, government stories .. the whole story…

And he made a tilt at the knee-jerk reaction of “the politicians” to the report.

“If the accommodation stays only a the political level.”. it will not produce reconciliation. “They need to give us a vision of a shared future. A political settlement on the Hill is not enough.”

Finally Eames

Reconciliation can only be done when it treats everyone equally”

Which begs several questions.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London