“We must deal with the past without living in it.”

The four three Victims Commissioners have published their “Advice to Government” on “Dealing with the Past” [pdf file].  From the document

The Commission for Victims and Survivors has concluded that there is a need for the British Government, acting with the support of the Irish Government, to press the political and civic leaders of Northern Ireland to agree structures to deal with the past, beyond the current arrangements of the Historical Enquiries Team and the Police Ombudsman.

An Irish Times report summarises the proposals


– Stormont parties must address the legacy of the Troubles and avoid a temptation to ignore it by “drawing a line under the past”.

– British and Irish governments should “press political and civic leaders to agree structures to deal with the past”.

– Parties should work on a design process, to draw up an agreed policy between November and April for implementation in November 2011.

– Work should include inputs from the children’s commissioner, the PSNI, justice department, the Community Relations Council and the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

– No general amnesty as this “would be repugnant to the vast majority of victims”.

– No £12,000 “Recognition Payment”, as recommended by Eames-Bradley, for the time being.

But, as UTV’s Ken Reid notes on his blog

But is the political will there?

I have my doubts.

Unionists point to the lack of a clear definition of a victim.

Republicans are also not happy.

More importantly the new British Government is lukewarm at best, already side-stepping proposals for a legacy commission.

The issue, however, will not go away.

Somebody somewhere will have to take responsibility.

What a chance for the First and Deputy First Ministers to make their mark.

I have my doubts too…

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  • Sam Flanagan

    Would anyone object if we started dealing with the past by having John Stevens filing cabinet opened and the names and details revealed?

    After all, if we have “true peace” those whose identities are revealed will have nothing to fear will they?

  • anne warren

    There were so many victims of the Troubles and we are all survivors.
    I agree that Stormont parties must address the legacy of the Troubles.
    What is it?

    If the legacy is that everyone shares is a heartfelt desire for “never again”, surely that can be built on and a line drawn under the 20th century in NI?

    But if the legacy is something different for each side?

  • Sam Flanagan

    The “legacy” is John Steven`s filing cabinet. Don`t you think all the “parties” should be calling for the contents to be revealed ? It won`t cost a penny unlike multi-million pound inquiries.
    Why dosn`t Slugger O`Toole start an “on-line petition” callling for all Steven`s details to be made public?

    All the party leaders can be asked to sign first, followed by all their elected reps.
    After that all the “Church leaders” can sign, followed by all the N.Ireland members of the NUJ.

    It would be a very interesting attempt at “mobilising public opinion” would it not?

  • anne warren

    Sam to reply to your suggestions I looked up a few things:
    Sir John Stevens, the UK’s most senior policeman and the author of three reports into the security forces in Northern Ireland,
    Stevens Inquiry: At a glance

    • Security force collusion with loyalist paramilitary killers led to a number of murders in Northern Ireland.
    • The killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane and another Belfast man, student Brian Lambert, “could have been prevented” if the security forces had not been involved in collusion.
    • The report said: “We have identified serious shortcomings, highlighting collusion.”
    • Collusion is defined as the failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, withholding of intelligence and evidence and the involvement of intelligence agents in murder.
    • The Stevens team into collusion said it faced obstruction from its very first day from members of the security forces opposed to the inquiry.
    • Some major lines of inquiry are at the early stages of investigation.
    • A former government minister, Douglas Hogg, was compromised in the House of Commons when he said, a month before Mr Finucane’s killing, that some solicitors were “unduly sympathetic” to the IRA.
    • The Stevens team is investigating whether the withholding of evidence from his inquiry was sanctioned, and if so, at what level.
    • The fire that destroyed his offices in 1990 was a deliberate act of arson.
    • Sir John insists that every single word is supported by evidence and documentation.

    I was going to suggest applying under the FOI Act but the BBC report states
    “The full report cannot be released to the public because of the nature of ongoing investigations and possible criminal prosecutions”

    A major, two-part Panorama investigation reveals the extent to which some members of the British intelligence services colluded with – and even tried to direct – loyalist death squads in Northern Ireland. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/2019301.stm
    And according to UTV, The family of murdered Northern Ireland solicitor Pat Finucane has been invited to meet the Government to discuss the possibility of an inquiry. http://www.u.tv/News/Government-to-meet-Finucane-family/36f38c07-4dce-4d1d-a358-6ee66c8783f3

    So perhaps something is moving forward in this area

  • Driftwood

    Many areas have the same ‘problem’ ?


    I used to work in Northern Ireland, where religion is by no means a minor business either, and at first couldn’t tell by looking whether someone was Catholic or Protestant. After a while, I thought I could guess with a fair degree of accuracy, but most of the inhabitants of Belfast seemed able to do it by some kind of instinct. There is a small underlay of ethnic difference there, with the original Gaels being a little darker and smaller than the blonder Scots who were imported as settlers, but to the outsider it is impalpable. It’s just that it’s the dominant question locally.

    PS Best Wishes to Christopher Hitchens on his diagnosis of Esophogal Cancer yesterday.

  • Alan Maskey

    Driftwood, Thank you for the good news. Allah Akhbar.

  • Henry94

    I think the unstated agreement from all sides is to keep kicking the can down the road until it’s too late to do anything. Neither the British nor the provos are going to come clean and without an amnesty then everybody will keep their mouths firmly shut.

    For victims the sad fact is that a any process involves a choice. Truth or justice. You can’t have both and you’ll have a hard time getting either.

  • Granni Trixie

    Anne: I agree with you that there may be majority agreement on “Never Again” – a way to launch a legacy programme. Could it become the mantra of a movement?

    Driftwood: for info:anthropologists have identified this as a cultural characteristic they call “telling”. meaning that people in NI have a well developed capacity to ‘tell’ the religious or community background of the people they meet by various cues (where they live, school attended etc) and may make assumptions based on stereotypes based on this information. However, it is the significence some people attach to this identification of identity that can produce sectarianism or make it just another bit of info about the people you meet.

  • Sam Flanagan

    Something is very definitely moving in that area. You should check the article which describes the reaction of Eames and Bradley when Stevens showed them the three filing cabinets relating to “Republican terror groups” which had been infiltrated by SB/MI5.

    Eames and Bradley were so shocked they have never mentioned it since.

  • joeCanuck

    The issue, however, will not go away.

    I think it has gone away for most people; I sense in my conversations that most people have moved on and want a line drawn. People who remain traumatized will need ongoing support.

  • joeCanuck

    I hit the submit button too readily.
    I admit that I only speak to a limited number of people and that my “sense” may be out to lunch.

  • What is the point? No one will change their mind. No pain will ease, it may even reopen old wounds. All this talk of Legacy etc. is just so much intellectual hot air. No one feels better for having old wounds reopened when no one is punished for the crime.