Somewhat as I suspected Shaun Woodward has announced that the £12,000 payments proposed by Eames Bradley are to be scrapped. Brian has a report on Eames and Bradley at Westminster and it seems even Lord Eames has begun to understand that it was an utterly crazy and immoral idea. Whether he fully understands that this episode completely undermines his report is uncertain and I doubt he fully appreciates just how much damage he has done himself in terms of his personal credibility. I would suggest that David Simpson and Iris Robinson are correct that the report is now damaged beyond repair. The report should be seen as a whole and so utterly morally wrong and ludicrous the proposals of Eames Bradley that they, along with Eamess credibility, should be placed in the dustbin of history. I am, however, extremely concerned that this will not happen. My fear is that dumping the £12,000 is the next choreographed part of the Eames Bradley process. There is a danger that the assorted briefings whereby we were all told that the unionist community would be shocked and the episode where most of the written submissions were rejected as they did not accord with Eames Bradleys views; were designed specifically to prepare the community (unionist and nationalist) for the report. Then the £12,000 was designed to take most of the flak and allow the other parts through. To quote my comments in the immediate wake of the report: I am left wondering if the whole £12,000 is to keep people from looking at other equally pernicious parts of the report. The government and both Bradley and especially Eames seem to have been taken aback by the sheer ferocity of the storm which greeted the report. However, now the option of binning the £12,000 and letting the rest of the report through seems to be being taken: this is just as dangerous and immoral as the idea of equating Lenny Murphy and Thomas Begley with Kathyrn Eakin and Marie Wilson.
It is worth going back over some of the other parts of the report to remember that the Ford Focus of money was only one unacceptable part of the report. Again we must highlight phrases such as A reconciling society takes collective responsibility for the past instead of attributing blame and avoiding responsibility. Again we must remember that the overwhelming majority of people who lived through the troubles did no harm to anyone and indeed wished no harm on our fellow citizens. Lord Eames seems to enjoy the experience of lowering himself into the gutter along with the Shankill butchers: that is a matter for him; if that gives him some self righteous glow then he is welcome to it. However, the rest of us are under absolutely no obligation to descend into the gutter with him and must resist any attempt by the noble lord to force us as a society down to the level to which he has chosen to stoop. The fact that a church man (and a very leading one at that) is unable to distinguish between individual and collective responsibility is practically unbelievable; however, that appears to be his desire.
Surely the single most dangerous part of the report is surely the Legacy Commission and again I will quote exactly what I said a few short weeks ago:
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.
Again we must remember that only in Northern Ireland it seems are murderers impossible to pursue after 20 plus years. Police in East Sussex are willing to look at a possible murder committed 83 years ago. The murderer of Lesley Molseed was convicted over 30 years after her death. The Germans are still interested in prosecuting war criminals over 50 years after the end of the Second World War. Had Lord Eames when he first became a leading cleric suggested that he felt that after a few years crimes did not matter, I doubt he would have risen far in the ranks of the Church of Ireland. Were he now to suggest that about any other part of the world I suspect he would be dismissed out right. Only here in Northern Ireland do crimes not matter: only here is a leading cleric allowed to dismiss the chances of justice.
The supposed explanation is always that due to the difficulties in gaining statements etc. from terrorists, convictions are almost impossible in Northern Ireland. However, advances in forensic technology have allowed the conviction of assorted criminals from the past. Who knows what advances the future will bring? None of relevance to Northern Ireland if Eames Bradley have their way. The supposed code of honour of the terrorists is cited as an explanation for prosecutions being unlikely here. However, similar codes of honour do not prevent the Italians from perusing the mafia. Most importantly, however, I would suggest that the murderers of Kathyrn Eakin, whoever they are and however important they may be, should always have at the back of their mind the fear that one day a police officer will knock their door; maybe just maybe one day they will have to stand in the dock and just possibly one day that cell door will close.
Of course we are told that we will have an Information Recovery Strand where the commission will ask the nice criminals and any colluding agents of the state to tell them the truth. Yet again this is apparent naivety: Who seriously expects Gerry Adams to tell us what he knows? This the man who cannot even admit to being in the IRA. Again, however, what might be seen as naivety could maybe more accurately be viewed as devious immorality. Following this Strand the commission will 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 Eames Bradley will not admit to an amnesty, however, they are setting up another quango and preparing us for that body to create just such an amnesty, no doubt harking back to Eames Bradley for its justification.
Again if only the £12,000 is culled we will have the suggestion that the proposals of the Quigley Hamilton working group on ex terrorists be given the force of law. This will require employers to disregard any terrorist conviction unless that conviction makes them 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. Hence Eames Bradley will make Sean Kelly more employable than Maya Anne Evans who was convicted under Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for reading out the names of British soldiers killed in the Iraq war.
I have repeatedly stated that this report is not fit for purpose and I have repeatedly questioned the motives of its authors. The first and most obvious part of the report has been defeated. However, my suggestion is that the £12,000 was not merely an insulting ford Focus of money but a shield to allow through the rest of the report. That shield may have been blown off more easily and quickly than the government or Eames Bradley may have wished. However, far from resting on our collective laurels and letting the rest through as I submit we are expected to do; those of us of all sections of the community who still have some moral compass must press on to ensure that the report is indeed treated as a whole and consigned wholesale to the dustbin of history. If there is joins the reputations of its authors then that will be the one honourable outcome of this odious document.