The ongoing downfall of Eames Bradley

Pete Baker has blogged on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s view on Eames Bradley below. The saga of the decline and fall of the Eames Bradley report is something of a morality tale in itself. It began with the hubris of Dennis Bradley and the noble Lord who suggested at its outset it was “hugely important for the future to deal properly with the past.” He said collective memory could affect a whole community. “Memory is a very precious thing on a personal basis,”… “A collective memory can dictate your future and can sour an entire community. I just hope and pray, and pray earnestly that what we are going to do will help to put that into its proper prospective.”

Of course those were the statements with which the consultation began. Even at the start some were sceptical. However, as it proceeded more and more people turned from scepticism to outright hostility. The suggestion that the group might call the troubles a war followed by the possibility of an amnesty undermined its credibility. Serious commentators like Dean Godson and Alex Kane lined up against its approach.
Peter Hain had said at the outset of the Eames Bradley process that “This consultative group provides a platform for people to express their own views on how to address the violent legacy of the Troubles which impacted on so many across all sections of society.” Unfortunately Eames Bradley seemed to contrive to ignore practically all views apart from their own and those they deemed acceptable: never better illustrated than by denouncing and ignoring almost 90% of the written submissions they received as they were supposedly part of a campaign.
I suggested repeatedly that the process was not fit for purpose. However, when it was finally launched its ability to ignore the people who had gone to the meetings and written the letters was breathtaking. Not content with their disastrous report some in the Eames and Bradley group tried to fight back and at least one of its members made allegations which months later he has still not substantiated. After being told to put up or shut up he promptly did the latter. Whilst Bradley tried to keep faith with the report, Eames seemed to begin to admit at least some failings and tried to move on with a blatant attempt at self rehabilitation, now continuing with his appearances on Radio Ulster’s Thought for the Day on Thursday; though thankfully I only caught the end of it.

Shaun Woodward realised the writing was on the wall and dumped the £12,000 for victims’ relatives (though of course the noble Lord, Mr. Bradley and his sidekicks managed to walk away with rather more than that). The Tories may well dump the whole thing and recently as Pete has noted the Northern Ireland affairs committee has also savaged many of Eames Bradley’s recommendations especially the amnesty. I have previously questioned how Eames can pretend to see a difference between those murdered by dissident republicans earlier this year and those who died in the past.

That dishonest difference which Eames will not admit to was thrown into stark relief again this week. One of Eames Bradley’s justifications for their support for a further quango, the Legacy Commission, which would “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.” (translation into honest speak: amnesty) was that the preceding “Information Recovery Strand” would have five years to prosecute murders from the Troubles “taking into account the receding possibilities.”

However, in the least week we have seen the police charge and individual with one of the horrific murders of the 1980s: that of Jennifer Cardy. Now clearly the individual charged is innocent until proven guilty. What matters here is that the police are still involved in investigating the murder of a 9 year old girl 23 years ago. Clearly someone forgot to tell the police of “the receding possibilities” in this case. Indeed the police have charged someone before and are clearly willing to peruse this case if at all possible: maybe new technologies like DNA evidence will result in this child’s murderer getting his or her just punishment.

What the noble Lord needs to explain, (maybe on Thought for the Day) is whether he supports attempts to continue to investigate this 9 year old child’s murder after so many years and if indeed that investigation should, if necessary, go on for more than another 5 years. After all he seems to give the investigation of the murder of another 9 year old girl only 5 years and stresses the “receding possibilities” despite the fact that arrests have previously been made.

  • I dont think there was anything actually wrong with setting up this quango. The unfortunately thing was that, as it turned out, Eames and Bradley were not competent to lead it.

    I do not believe it should have been chaired by anybody who was either a member of (or a former member of) the clergy. The remit was a highly political one and I have always said that clergy should stay out of a leading role in politics because of the great difficulty they tend to have in balancing morality with practicality and reaching a pragmatic view. Simply put, they would not possess the skills needed to achieve this that a seasoned politician would have.

    On reading parts of the report, I had an uncomfortable feeling that I was being “preached to” about things such as good and evil. I do not know how they managed to reach such a flawed conclusion when it came to making recommendations about compensation for victims families. Perhaps they looked at the Statutory definitions of victims and did not give the matter a second thought. Perhaps they confused themselves when they thought about ‘wrong on both sides’ and equated it innocent victims as “the other side.” Perhaps they were so afraid of getting the balance of their judgment wrong that they ended up leaving morality behind.

    A point you make in the report is that Eames impliedly recommends amnesty for old unsolved crimes. That is not correct. Here is the full text from page 40 which you have quoted in your third last paragraph.

    “the group is not proposing an amnesty but recommends that the new commission itself 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”

    Why did you chose not to quote the first part of that sentence?

    Towards the end of your post, your criticism of Eames continues beyond the report towards talk for the day. I have never met Dr. Eames but from all I have read about him, I doubt very much that he would be anything but welcoming of the arrest in connection with an old previously unsolved case.

    I dont think pursuit of Dr. Eames in relation to his mistakes are helpful at this stage. What we should be considering is how best to make use of the work of Eames Bradley and their team.

    We have now entered a cost-cutting era where quangos, including the Legacy commission, face the axe. Yet there is some valuable data and research which will and should be re-visited.

    There are still problems which will not go away. One section of the report was about sectarianism. The report said nothing on that subject which I actually disagreed with. Who outside politics is now carrying this ball?

  • Turgon

    Thank you for a considered response. I have actually mentioned that part of the report in a number of my previous blogs on the subject. However, it is not just me who regards Eames Bradley’s weasel words as preparation for an amnesty: that was the view of the NI Affairs Committee which Pete mentioned here.

    As to Eames himself I do think you fail to appreciate (no disrespect but you being not from here) the feeling of complete betrayal which many (?most) unionists feel regarding Eames. Throughout the Troubles he was at funeral after funeral and denounced all the murderers. For him now to pretend no difference between real victims and the perpetrators is appalling to most of us.

    I have previously also mentioned his extremely dishonest attempts to “Move on” by creating a completely untrue narrative.

    I think Eames, if he wants to rehabilitate himself could and should come out and repudiate the report and state that it was flawed in its totality. He should also apologise for ignoring most of what he was told and he might even explain what many of us think: that Bradley wrote the thing to a predetermined pattern promoted in its outline at least by the government.

    Even if he cannot / will not do that he could apologise for the reports grave errors and then just maybe he could move on. As it is his undoubted good work over his primacy will always be overshaddowed by his iniquitous involvement in this report: its dishonour will be his indefinitely.

    As to his views on the arrest of murderers: You agreed with me when I made very similar points earlier on this year.