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.