Spain is the current model for dealing with the past

Liam Clarke has been made aware that post Franco Spain rather than South Africa is the current model for dealing with the past. He seems to be the only MSM journalist to pick up Owen Paterson’s interesting Steinberg lecture which I drew attention to last week. Spain passed an Act of Oblivion for all the atrocities committed during a civil war and aftermath  that cost a million lives. Are we up for something similar?  See Michael Portillo’s essay on his split background.

 Liam offers a penetrating analysis of the issues involved in what appears to be the SoS’s favoured approach to dealing with the past. This involves opening up the archives to historians on an unprecedented scale. He rehearses some of the problems and solutions of such a project.  I instance one of each.

Any lawyer would advise people who were active in the Troubles, whether they are retired members of the security forces or former paramilitants, to say nothing unless they were assured that their words could not be used in criminal proceedings. Some might also require anonymity.

One way around this would be for a panel including trained police investigators and lawyers, not just historians, to sift through the material and form a view on the feasibility of prosecution. This professional assessment would help victims decide whether evidence in their cases should be made public or withheld in the hope of future prosecutions. They could also consider whether they wanted likely perpetrators to be given immunity from self incrimination in return

I add a few more of my own.

  • How wide a range of disclosure is contemplated?
  • How can disclosure of case information be made compatible with the general Human Rights Act requirements to protect identity?
  • How can effective disclosure avoid prejudicing possible trials or inquest?
  • How is it proposed to overcome the effective veto of the judiciary, independent prodecutors and coroners?  
  • Who vets the documents and the readers and sets conditions of access and publication? A British, British and Irish or a wider international commission?
  • Should document release be iterative i.e. year by year as with the National Archives or released in a multi-volume Big Bang?
  • Would special legislation be necessary?
  • Would such a scheme need the approval of all parties?
  • Would it win the participation of former paramilitaries in follow-up?
  • Is such a scheme by itself a sufficient response to allow a line to be drawn under the Troubles and lift the threat of future prosecutions, apart from the continuing due process of inquests?
  • Should it begin with an audit of where we are now?
  • How soon could the project begin?

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Apart from Lawyers, Journalists and Academics in the Conflict Resolution Industry, there is nobody driving this. No real people actually want it.
    Though it provides for great sterile and mutual congratulatory conversation over tea and vol au vents in the Lanyon Building at QUB.

  • pippakin

    There is a need for formal recognition of amnesty. It needs to be openly and calmly debated, guidelines drawn and exceptions to it clearly defined.

  • barnshee

    No amnesty –for ANYONE

  • pippakin


    That is the instinctive reaction, but is it the best thing to do? each time one of the tragedies or atrocities is highlighted pain is inflicted and anger flares again.

    It is not the way to move forward.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well of course there IS an amnesty……but thanks to our old friend Creative Ambiguity (or The Big Lie) we must pretend that there is no amnesty..
    George Mitchell di not have a “good news…..bad news” statement on Good Friday 1998.
    He did not say “the good news is that your friends are getting out of jail and the bad news is that you lot are going to jail”……only an idiot would think that an amnesty was not implicit.
    With a further twelve years of bedding the process down, there is absolutely no chance of anyone going to jail. The bottom line is that even without the GFA……convictions would be almost impossible after so many years have elapsed.
    But there is no open or calm way that an amnesty can be debated. We are condemned to it being a constant grey area.
    Likewise we have been promised Justice…….but whether thats merely about recognition of wrong doing….Claudy or Bloody Sunday……or actual criminal trial, its delibertely vague.

    People tend to forget that those of us who lived thru the 1970s, 1980s 1990s breathed a sigh of relief on Good Friday 1998. Most of us……endorsed the proposals and I suspect we were aware of the vagueness.
    Since then Ive watched my children grow and grandchildren born and I dont see any merit in tampering with the flawed agreement that brought it about.
    As Ive said it is not driven by any internal force merely the vanity project of outsiders…..

  • pippakin


    Yes there is a virtual amnesty and that is what causes such pain, what is the point of the historical investigations? and why should those who for eg. murdered Jean McConville be living the life of Riley? It is those murders, the disappeared, that should be beyond amnesty.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    In the particular case of Jean McConville, I suggest there is possibly enough evidence to interview people.
    To charge people? Probably.
    For the CPS to say not to proceed on grounds of…..time lapse, witnesses deceased, trial by media, not in public interest etc.
    If it went to court…..Diplock or Jury……a conviction?
    And how long in jail?
    And the “appalling vista” (so to speak) of the Process unravelling as a consequence.

    Its sterile. Its just not going to happen.
    We have asked people (and I include wider family members) to pay a horrible price in terms of Justice for their loved ones. Some quite clearly are happy to pay that price. Others are not.
    Had I suffered more than minimally, I might well have a different view.

  • pippakin


    It would not be easy but that is no reason why it should not happen. It would help many to come to terms and the only ones who need to fear it, since most of the cases are historical, are the ones who committed the murders.

  • Fitzjameshorse1745:

    “With a further twelve years of bedding the process down, there is absolutely no chance of anyone going to jail. The bottom line is that even without the GFA……convictions would be almost impossible after so many years have elapsed”.

    Respectfully, what planet are you on?

    You seem to assures us that there is a de facto amnesty and no-one will go to jail nowadays? Have you not been following the McGeough/McAnespie case for the past 3 1/2 years?

    Has anyone on here even noticed the almost year-long Diplock saga McGeough/McAnespie have been through, and the fact that McGeough’s legal team have told him and his family to prepare for a 20-year sentence on charges going back to 1975?

    Go to and re-acquaint yourself with these two men’s case/trial. Then tell try to tell us everything in “Disneyworld” (GFA) is just fine?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well for nearly six decades I have been living on this planet……and indeed this island…..never more than 40 miles from my place of birth. This contrasts with Mr McGeough who is somewhat of a more seasoned traveller than I am. Europe..USA……he got around.
    Yet what prison cell is Mr McGeough languishing in at the minute…….oh wait hes on bail. Oh the injustice of it all. Surely the stuff of ballads.
    And his legal team have told him to expect a 20 year sentence. Somehow I doubt that. Id get a second opinion. Will it cost him anything or is it a legal aid case?

    Of course Mr McGeough was not exactly one of those who cheered the GFA so he can hardly expect to be the beneficiary of its provisions.

    But as you see I included……”appalling vista”, “not in public interest”, “time has elapsed”, “trial by media” as reasons why nobody will be convicted. In the case of Mr McGeoough his obvious state of lunacy is probably enough to keep him out of jail.

  • Fitzjameshorese1745

    Your somewhat deranged response would seem to imply that the only one in an obvious state of lunacy is yourself. Why can’t you just admit that you’re talking through your hat and that you haven’t the foggiest notion about what’s
    going on as regards amnesties, Diplock courts, prison sentences and the like?

    Gerry McGeough did hard jail time in Europe and the US because he fought for his country and the Irish republican cause; you almost seem jealous of this. Maybe you should have moved around a little yourself during those six decades, rather than critisizing those who were prepared to make huge sacrifices and actually do something.

    It used to be the case on Slugger that if you couldn’t play the issue then you didn’t play the man, but it seems that Gerry can be insulted and smeared in the most vicious manner at will.

    Finally, why shouldn’t Gerry Mc Geough and Vincent McAnespie be beneficiaries of the GFA? They have been charged with Troubles-related incidents that occurred
    decades before the 1998 agreement. In fact why have they been charged at all while British forces go free”?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont suppose theres anything I could possibly say that would convince you.
    And Im absolutely sure that theres nothing you could say that would convince me.