#SpAdBill, the #GFA and the long shadow of the Boundary Commission

I have been intending to post on the SpAdBill for a while but nothing has encapsulated the shrill histrionics of any public debate involving unionism since, well, the fading #flegs crisis or whatever the issue was just before that. And don’t get me wrong, there is no doubting the sincerity of Ann Travers or others who feel they have a grievance that needs to be addressed, regardless of who is responsible for their pain or loss.

It is that last point, though, that reduces the SpAdBill to a purely political statement with little regard to the realities of the past. If your loss was at the hands of the RUC, UDR or British Army, or the 85% of intelligence acquired by loyalist paramilitaries, or involved an agent operated by the security forces, there is pretty much no chance that a representative fraction of those responsible were prosecuted.

Indeed, they may well have been promoted and/or carved out a successful career and could even be acting as a special advisor. We will never know that, though, because, despite all the aspirations of the Good Friday Agreement, London has never been fully compliant on decommissioning it’s own actions or pursuing those who from within their own ranks, or their proxies, that commissioned and organised extrajudicial violence.

Lustration, the imposition of additional tariffs on those imprisoned for certain offences or terms, is only meaningful and equitable if it is transparent and fair. The SpAdBill is only ‘fair’ if you accept the premise that those that went to prison are representative of those responsible for the pain and loss felt by victims. Which it won’t, and no amount of moralising can square that particular circle.

And everyone knows this (even the SDLP).

While this will probably have minimal impact on politics in general, at some point republicans are going to have to reflect on the long shadow that the Boundary Commission casts. In the 1920s much faith was placed in the probability that the Commission would scrap partition or make it unworkable. This was a critical misjudgement and didn’t allow for the potential of unionism to disrupt the process.

This badly fragmented nationalist/republican politics (and still does to some extent). Stormont, as a post-GFA institution, has almost universally been operated with public disdain by unionists (with an almost normalised level of threat of street violence via parades etc). Now the GFA increasingly resembles a latter day Boundary Commission.

Ironically, nationalists/republicans, with a stronger mandate than in the 1990s, should take a lead from unionists and begin to consider what should replace the GFA. Given farce that generally passes for politics, it is perhaps time that London, Dublin and Washington get past the GFA is the only solution orthodoxy and grasp reality.

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