“Trading truth for justice is a tough call.”

In the Belfast Telegraph Liam Clarke considers, at face value, the “absurd” and “disingenuous” Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams’ call for an independent, international, truth commission.  From the Belfast Telegraph article

Trading truth for justice is a tough call. In this case, a lot will depend on the quality of the information given by the IRA members.

In the case of the Disappeared, the evidence came long after the deaths, but many people will consider the trade-off worthwhile because it allowed several bodies to be recovered and prosecution was, in any case, a very remote possibility. Those speaking to the commission were offered anonymity, as well.

At the Bloody Sunday inquiry, where there was no anonymity, the results were mixed.

IRA members giving evidence – like their British Army opposite numbers – were not always convincing.

For instance, Martin McGuinness gave the impression of having left the IRA some time in the early 1970s – a version not generally accepted by historians – and refused to answer a number of questions citing the IRA’s honour code. Gerry Adams denies ever being in the IRA and Sinn Fein denies any link to the IRA, although nearly half its Assembly members are ex-prisoners.

If the public – and victims – are to accept the case for waiving prosecution rights in return for the truth, they would need to get the whole truth – not a spun, or partial, version.

We need to know what Judge Peter Smithwick makes of the IRA accounts. If they seem accurate to him, then the case for a commission which can offer similar deals becomes stronger.

Well, perhaps…  There’s “the price of velvet” to consider.

Where, as a result of the negotiated model of revolution, you cannot get justice, you can at least ask for truth.

But, as was pointed out in September last year

Will Crawley:  ”But we now have some people, including unionist politicans, saying how can we really seriously and credibly talk about a truth recovery process in dealing with the past when people can simply appeal to memory loss about what happened and their involvement in the past?”

Denis Bradley:  ”Well that’s probably an observation worth exploring, but, I mean…”

Will Crawley: ”Well explore it for us.”

Denis Bradley:  “Well.  The DUP is split right down the middle, as far as I can observe, on this issue.  I mean I have had two situations recently, and I may have got this wrong and I apologise if I got it wrong.  But it appeared to me that Ian Paisley Jnr went to west Belfast during the summer and said, ‘just put the past behind us and get on with the future’.

“Now that’s completely different to what some of the other leadership in the DUP are saying.

“On the other hand you have Sinn Féin running around the place talking about an international tribunal, [an] international independent truth commission.

“Now, first of all, they’re told truth commissions are very difficult and they’re very… they’re not really the stuff [of] which our culture lives and survives and has its being.

“On the other hand are they talking about this international independent [commission] being set up by the United Nations?  Fair enough, except the United Nations doesn’t do this type of stuff.

“So who’s going to set it up, and who’s going to be independent, and who’s going to pay for it?

“Because if the British pay for it then it’s contaminated, accordingly.

“And the truth of the matter is that the relatives on the republican side know this.  And they’re now beginning to get sceptical about Sinn Féin’s stance on this because they know that Sinn Féin are, perhaps, not wanting this to happen as much as they appear to say even though they’re singing off the same hymn sheet.

“On the other hand the great majority of people just want… are bored with it.

“And in the fourth dimension of this, it’s not going away.

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  • Alias

    A promise of immunity for individuals proffering testimony is not likely to have any affect in soliciting truth because a confession will inevitably involve incriminating others in the criminal conspiracy (as such is the nature of murder gangs) who may not be co-operating with such a commission so there is going to be consequences for others which would likely act as significant detterent. Given that most of these murder gang members are a close and closed community, that is likely to be an insurmountable barrier.

    At any rate, NI is more like Cambodia and Mozambique in that most of the society felt that it was better to ‘let the past stay the past’ rather than investigate it, so neither country went through the process, and neither country seems any the worse off for adopting a ‘sleeping dogs’ policy. Chile is perhaps closest to NI in that a significant part of the old military regime remained in place (in NI, 100% of it remains in place) with the military, unsurprisingly, rejecting the findings of that country’s truth commission.

    Given that the British state has extensive files on all of the murder gangs and on government policy, the UN should appoint a commission comprised of international judges who can examine those files and make a judgement about it. That’s all we really need to know. That. of course, will never happen because we are not allowed to know the extent to which the British state was running the show, continues to run it, and the extent of criminality that the State will engage in to protect and promote its national interest.

  • joeCanuck

    I say that justice is truth in action.
    Benjamin Disraeli

  • joeCanuck

    If it was “either/or” I wonder what the majority of victims or victims families would want?

  • Pete Baker


    Most likely?

    Some would want truth primarily.

    Some would want justice.

    But as you Disraeli said, justice is truth in action.

    Then there’s the basis of a civilised society to consider…

  • fordprefect

    I definately think I am living in a parallel universe, how can a compulsive liar call for an independent, international truth commission? He’s like an alternative comedian, a very unfunny alternative comedian!