Nuala O’Loan: “that is not the foundation for a just society.”

A novel suggestion for dealing with the past from former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, in a Guardian interview. And it’s not an “absurd” and “disingenuous” call for an international ‘truth’ commission.  From the Guardian article

…the former ombudsman, now Lady O’Loan, stressed that a “Waking the Dead” style unit investigating Ulster’s recent conflict would not be tantamount to a truth commission like that which dealt with the apartheid era in South Africa.

“There should be one unified operation to deal with the past and it must be independent,” she said.

It is not a truth commission because it would require that all the parties to the conflict tell the truth and I see no evidence that the parties are ready for that yet. And I am not sure that they ever will be.” [added emphasis]

The victims were owed something, she said, and that should be a single independent historical investigations unit.

“This unit should have full police powers to arrest, to search, to seize property and material, anything relevant to the investigation.

“If you had all those powers and a single unit you would get huge efficiencies because we would not have three organisations doing the same work effectively trawling over the same ground.”

[The “longed for tidal wave of justice”, after all? – Ed]  Hope, and history…

As the Guardian article goes on to note

O’Loan said dealing properly with Northern Ireland’s recent violent past would undermine the justification for the armed campaigns by the Real IRA and other dissident terror groups.

Revealing the truth and the reality behind all the armed actions of the Troubles would remove the argument for further violence, she said.

I think if we are to manage the problem of the Real IRA we have to deal with the historic problem of criminality, murder etc in our time.

“I know that people say this will disturb the peace process by investigating the past but we are moving on and we need to do so on a sound, just basis.” [added emphasis again]

Left to their own devices, the policy of telling lies will continue to be regarded as “an excusable and acceptable tactic” by some.

And there’s another important point to be made

…O’Loan said thousands more had been affected by the violence beyond the families of the 3,200-plus killed. She said that up to 150,000 to 200,000 people in Northern Irish society would have been damaged in the conflict.

“The impact on the whole of the community given that figure is huge. When you have a situation where there are people who can see others still walking down the street whom they know committed murder, that is not the foundation for a just society.”

The human rights campaigner denied she was “kicking at sleeping dogs” in her demand for the single unsolved crimes unit and creating the conditions to destabilise the political settlement in Northern Ireland.

“You would argue that the investigations the police ombudsman’s office have carried out have set people free,” she said. “In the case of the loyalists in North Belfast, as a result of these inquiries in that area ordinary people are freer than ever from the paramilitaries. It has changed the balance of power.” [added emphasis throughout]

Which is related to the point being made in the piece I quoted here.

One more quote from the Guardian article

On her suggestion for a unified investigatory body with powers to arrest and prosecute she added: “I have seen nobody who wants to do that.

My reading of what the politicians are saying is that they would much rather bury this stuff; that they want to live in the present. But the problem with living in the present is that if you don’t deal with the past then you don’t learn from it and you don’t prevent it from recurring.” [added emphasis]

Indeed.