A minimalist approach to dealing with the past?

As far as I can make out, Malachi’s comment in the Bel Tel is the first response to the consultation on the consultation on Eames Bradley which I fear will be seen generally as a long kick upfield into the very long grass. I’m a middle- of- the- roader on Eames-Bradley myself. I don’t see the benefit in a major Truth Commission exercise, and I’m certain that most individual case files cannot be publicly revealed for many years at least on human rights grounds. I favour three approaches. First, not to over-emphasise the purgative nature of truth. Truth, or the nearest we get to it, emerges over time through comparative study of the evidence. Second, to encourage more individual testimony from all sides in the conflict, the government should make a declaration as soon as possible that future prosecutions for “scheduled “ (i.e. connected with the troubles) offences before April 1998 are no longer feasible. This would be an honest recognition of reality the authorities have been ducking on political grounds. If the establishment can’t be honest, what hope is there for others whose accounts are essential parts of the story? They have all but ruled out further public inquiries, so this further step would be logical. Three, the setting up of a standing Records Commission to devise principles and rules for a programme of access to and disclosure of the files, adding explanations as to why individual redactions ( blacked –out bits) are made. The Commission, consisting of official and public representatives would hear public submissions for disclosure before reaching their decisions. Members of the commission could not be active members of the local political parties but would have to be acceptable to them. The work of the Records Commission would be separate from the role of the Victims Commissioners. If you have ideas on the substance of dealing with the past ( and not, please, more on recognition payments which are already ruled out), it would be good to post them.

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