“while we do not recommend that the Legacy Commission go ahead as proposed..”

The House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has published its report on the Consultative Group on the Past in NI’s report. There’s a BBC report and an Irish Times report on it. Brief report highlights here and the full report is available here. From the report’s conclusions and recommendations

19. We believe that the proposed mechanisms for truth recovery and thematic investigation do not represent viable courses of action with which families, victims and paramilitaries will engage. In treading carefully, the Consultative Group appears to attempt to reconcile two mutually inconsistent positions. Despite the Group’s intentions, the proposals, if enacted as proposed, might well in effect constitute a de facto “amnesty”. Yet, at the same time, they might not provide sufficient assurance to those who might engage in truth recovery. (Paragraph 113)

20. Truth recovery could work effectively only if there were open and honest engagement by those involved in past events. It may be that such engagement would be achieved only if those who participated in such events, from whatever section of the community they may come, were guaranteed some amnesty in return for their openness and honesty. This would be an exceedingly high price to pay, and we are not convinced that either Northern Ireland or the rest of the United Kingdom is ready at present to contemplate such a step. We believe that the Consultative Group’s proposals in this respect are likely to prove unworkable. The proposed system also raises complex issues in relation to legal process and human rights. We recommend, therefore, that no additional processes of truth recovery or thematic investigation should be undertaken at present by any newly formed Legacy Commission. (Paragraph 114)

And if the Group’s proposals “in effect constitute a de facto ‘amnesty'”, what do the current arrangements constitute? Despite the praise for the Historical Enquiries Team how many cases have been brought to court?Going back to the proposed Legacy Commission, as I said on the NI Secretary of State’s consultation on the report

Good luck with that one, Shaun.. And don’t forget about those “patently inadequate” safeguards, nevermind whether all the groups involved will actually participate..

And it’s worth repeating what the co-chairman of the Consultative Group, Denis Bradley, told the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

“The only door that has been closed is that of the IRA,” Mr Bradley told the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, in Leinster House. Addressing TDs and MEPs, he added: “I think it is going to be a disgrace if the IRA stand offside.” The former vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board made a direct plea for co-operation from the terror group. “I would appeal to the IRA,” he said. “I know how difficult this will be because many people who were involved in the IRA want to get on with their lives and that is understandable. “But ways must be found if any truth process is to take place in a comprehensive way.”

The lack of compulsion has been acknowleged by both chairmen.

My initial response to the proposed Legacy Commission is in the archive and as I said in July 2007

the groups he’s pointing to as being necessary participants [] include those responsible for the amnesiacs deal – and those who would have a vested interest in continuing to tip-toe round the past.

As for the historical suggestion that Sinn Féin and the DUP always intended to rely on their four Victims Commissioners to deal with those poisonous foundations..

Despite the Belfast Telegraph’s optimistic editorial, we’re already processing on..

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  • Who wants an amnesty? If I were a former paramilitary who had killed many people, I would be living in full confidence now that I am not going to be caught and that even if I am, I will only serve two years.I would take my chances and trade nothing for a stronger assurance that I won’t be arrested in the future.

    So for the NIAC to judge that an amnesty or de facto amnesty is a high price to pay has to be explained better.

    It would be a high price for society to pay in that it would be politically contentious and an affront to natural justice and morality.

    But it would not, surely, be a major concession to the paramilitaries themselves.

  • Brian Walker

    This would probably be the right outcome. On one crucial point I dissent. The committee joins the majority in the pretence that we don’t already have a ” de facto amnesty.” A rethink is needed based on the victims commissioners, the HET and wider access to documents than the 30 year rule allows. This will also be cheaper than E/B but shouldn’t be so cheap that it fails to do the job. Instinctively I take a minimalist approach to grand solutions, despite the obvious sincerity of Eames-Bradley. A suitable grass roots approach is highlighted today by David McKittrick who knows more about the cost of the Troubles case by case than most. It’s about Healing Through Remembering, which is supported by Peace Direct, one of the three charities in this year’s Independent Christmas Appeal.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/appeals/indy-appeal/independent-appeal-meeting-with-the-enemy-1841986.html

  • Pete Baker

    And as a further dis-incentive to raking over those embers..

    From the conclusions and recommendations

    23. In our 2008 Report on Policing and Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, the Committee expressed a view that any public inquiry beyond those currently under way should depend on cross-community support from within the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, the continuing demand for a mechanism to pursue investigation cannot be ignored. If demand still exists once the existing public inquiries and reviews of historical cases have been completed, there may be a role for a body such as the proposed Legacy Commission to undertake some form of thematic investigation as an alternative. We would expect the full devolution of policing and justice to have been achieved by the time that any such decisions are taken. We recommend that necessary funding should then come from the Northern Ireland Executive, rather than the UK Government. (Paragraph 120)[added emphasis]