An enormous amount has already been said about the Eames Bradley report. I have now tried to read the report. Many will have their own opinions on it and I am sure more reaction will come as it is more completely digested. However, I though a few observations and comments might be interesting.
I will start with a quote from the report which seems in many ways to sum up the position adopted by Eames Bradley:
The Past should be dealt with in a manner which enables society to become more defined by its desire for true and lasting reconciliation rather than by division and mistrust, seeking to promote a shared and reconciled future for all.
Fine words indeed. The reality, however, seems to be that the initial reaction to the report has been far from promoting any such reconciliation. The report along with the assorted preceding briefings have in my view increased anger and mistrust. Many have praised the honesty and integrity of Eames Bradley. I have several times demurred from these eulogies and I will again repeat my dissent from this analysis. Was suggesting that the unionist community would be surprised by what Eames Bradley saw of security forces penetration of the paramilitaries likely to help promote reconciliation? Was dismissing the letters objecting to an amnesty a way of promoting trust and reconciliation? Alex Kane has pointed out that this quango (for that is what Eames Bradley is) .. was set up by the Secretary of State and is co-chaired by someone who was ennobled by the state and by someone else who seems to be a semi-professional member of quangos, boards and consultation groups, it is no big surprise that it appears to be heading in a direction which is already broadly acceptable to government thinking. The suggestion on BBC Inside Ulster by a spokesperson for the South East Fermanagh Foundation that he saw none of what his group had suggested in the report rings very true and must be set alongside the much vaunted integrity and impartiality of Lord Eames and Dennis Bradley.
Turning to the waffle of the report there are a series of typical offensive nonsense platitudes which we have come to expect from the likes of Eames et al. A reconciling society takes collective responsibility for the past instead of attributing blame and avoiding responsibility. This sort of nonsense ignores the fact that in law and in most reasonable people’s minds society has nothing to take responsibility for. Individuals committed very wrong acts. Lord Eames should remember that the Bible suggests that everyone is accountable before God for his or her sin, not for other people’s. The Past in question here is actually the wrong, immoral and evils acts of the past. Any of us who did not commit crimes here is innocent. As such we have no responsibility for the actions of the past. The failure of Eames Bradley to accept this utterly flaws the morality of the report and it is from that fundamental moral flaw that the idiotic proposals of the report flow. As such this lumping of us all in some sort of collective responsibility must be pointed out as the dishonest lie that it is. If Lord Eames wishes to claim he is responsible for something in the past that is for his conscience: Mine and I submit almost all of ours should be clear on this matter. Let us leave Lord Eames to wallow in the self righteousness of his own self appointed guilt should he choose.
Moving from that flaw we see the erroneous ideas which flow from it. The idea of the £12,000 has received most attention. It seems that the nearest relative is to receive that money. That raises a number of practical issues: what if there is no near relative? How does one define nearest relative? The victim’s relative I know best, whose comments on this were polite (as they always are) but utterly dismissive was only the fiancée of a man murdered. As such is she a victim? What does she get? What of partners who were not married? The whole concept is an absolute nonsense. Eames and Bradley in their usual way suggest that this is not compensation but it will be seen as such: since when did the price of a Ford Focus recognise the value of a human life?
Of course the other issues are the idea of there being no hierarchy of grief: well maybe but there is certainly a hierarchy of responsibility. By their insulting Ford Focus of money Eames Bradley are equating Thomas Begley and Lenny Murphy with Kathryn Eakin (aged 9) killed by the Claudy bomb. I suppose at least it updates 30 pieces of silver.
Thinking a little more about the payments, they are justified by saying that A mother’s tears are a mothers tears. Such an illogical, pernicious and indeed perverse use of emotive language should also be challenged. Imagine the outcry if £12,000 was given to the family of a drunk driver who was killed in an accident: yet his guilt is actually less than that of Begley or Murphy. Indeed even if our hypothetical drunk driver had killed a whole family and himself, his guilt is less. Unlike Begley and Murphy he set out with reckless and unthinking rather than deliberate murderous intent.
I am left wondering if the whole £12,000 is to keep people from looking at other equally pernicious parts of the report.
Moving on we see that Eames Bradley will saddle us with another quango: in this case The Legacy Commission. This supposedly august body will be headed by an International Commissioner with responsibility for society issues and will have a further two commissioners who will have responsibility for Review and Investigation and for Information Recovery and Thematic Cases. All of these quangocrats will be appointed by the British and Irish governments (albeit with the approval to be sought from the First and Deputy First minister). The commissioners appear accountable to practically no one and have considerable powers.
The commission will, it is claimed, attempt to take over the role of the Historical Enquiries Team and will try in the Review and Investigation Strand to find evidence to try to prosecute crimes where murder occurred. However, this part of the process is only given five years and Eames Bradley in their weasel way set this part up to fail by stating this strand will be taking into account the receding possibilities.
Then we have the Information Recovery Strand where the commission will ask the nice criminals and any colluding agents of the state to tell them the truth which as has been pointed out since Gerry Adams cannot even admit he was in the IRA is a unbelievable naivety even from Eames Bradley.
Hidden in that naive nonsense is, however, further if not immorality, then amorality. Eames Bradley duck the issue of an amnesty but again lurking in the platitudes is the recommendation that the new commission itself make recommendations on how a line might be drawn at the end of its five year mandate so that Northern Ireland may best move to a shared future. Hence, we see that although Eames Bradley will not admit to it there is a clear timetable for an amnesty after a suitable period of procrastination. I believe this is termed believable deny-ability; the problem is that few will forget that this iniquitous proposal was first aired by the ex CoI archbishop.
On the topic of the difficulty of finding criminals, it must be remembered that there have been several murderers brought to justice many years after their crimes. Techniques such as DNA testing, completely unknown 30 years ago have solved many crimes from the 1970s. In most judicial systems it is at least 50 years before people give up on finding a murderer. We must also remember that it is none other than the current Labour government which changed the law to ensure old war crimes from the Second World War could be prosecuted. However, it seems Eames Bradley and no doubt the new commissioners will place a lower value on Northern Irish human life. To be precise the value of a Ford Focus.
Another part of the document I thought worth highlighting is its suggestion that the proposals of the Quigley Hamilton working group on ex terrorists be given the force of law. To quote part of Quigley Hamilton 2.6…a conviction arising from the conflict should not bar an applicant from obtaining employment, facilities, and goods or services unless that conviction is manifestly incompatible with the job, facility or service in question. The onus of demonstrating incompatibility would, in the view of the group, rest with whoever was alleging it and the seriousness of the offence would not, per se constitute adequate grounds
2.7 The report where an applicant is ruled out of consideration at any stage he/she should be given the opportunity to outline his/her perspective before a final decision is taken.
I await the spectacle of terrorists being allowed to apply for jobs as doctors, lawyers and teachers. Even if that does not occur it is again quite ludicrous to suggest that those who committed these crimes are any the less criminals because they were in a criminal conspiracy of murderers. Paul Butler and Torrens Knight are no less murderers than any other murderers and to suggest that employers be forced to ignore their past is again offensive to the rest of us who did not commit acts of murder.
I am sure many will put their thoughts on this odious document. I will, however, finish by alluding to Eames Bradley’s support for a Day of Reflection on the 21st of June. Maybe Lord Eames in particular could remember that most unionists choose to remember the murdered on Remembrance Sunday and on 11th November. Most of us will leave Lord Eames to commemorate the 21st of June with the hippies at Stonehenge. His views are about as sensible. Unfortunately unlike the hippies he is doing people harm. As I have said throughout Eames Bradley is not fit for purpose.