Memo to Richard Haass: Greater openness in dealing with the past is long overdue

This call for a swift cross border public inquiry into the Omagh bombing by the British ambassador to Dublin at the time carries weight.  But enough to succeed?

“Material which the families presented to the British and Irish governments over a year ago, so far without response, suggests failings in MI5, the Garda and the FBI.”

Fifteen years ago, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern made clear no stone would be left unturned in the search for the perpetrators. This hollow promise must be honoured.

Such an inquiry would be a breakthrough and would not threaten the stability of the GFA. But decisions by the Secretary of State to oppose FOI requests for disclosure of inquest evidence in old cases may not on the face of it augur well for a new era of transparency. The latest case reported by the Detail in which an injunction against disclosure was granted in private after midnight, suggests official panic.

 HET told PRONI that it was: “currently in the very early stages of this (McAdorey) review and therefore it will be a considerable time before a conclusion will be reached. It would therefore not be in the public interest to release any information from the inquest file at this stage.”

According to the report  similar FOI requests for disclosure went against the advice of the Attorney General John Larkin.  These actions appear to put further pressure on the HET, after the report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary  recommending the  unit’s suspension for unequal  handling of paramilitary and Army offences.

But hold on. Was this a stunt by the SF Dcal minister Carál Ní Chuilín  who is  apparently able to authorise disclosure of public documents of this kind?

The BBC report by Mark Devonport  suggests narrower grounds for the injunction; that insufficient consideration  was given by Ms Ní Chuilín  for redacting ( blacking  out)  information that could identify  people concerned.

Justice minister David Ford’s  comment:

I’m extremely disappointed that she doesn’t seem to have taken any advice from my department, or the police, and has gone ahead and issued those documents.

“At this stage it is unclear exactly what redaction she applied.”

However if restriction even with safeguards is to be a blanket trend , it suggests that the British government will oppose much openness  at the  Haass committee over dealing with the past.  As is usual with such murky business we have a long way to go before we reach clarity.

It is open to the British government which is still responsible for “national security “ (including  most of the  residue of the Troubles),  to devise a strategy of greater openness  in consultation with law officers.  This single incident of an injunction granted in virtual secrecy at dead of night  shows what a can of worms dealing with the past can be . It is high time time that a strategy with clear rules was set, something better than the shadow war of attrition that is going on now .The British government may be mistaken if they believe that stonewalling case by case will wear campaigners down until the residues of the past finally  go away.

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  • cynic2

    Was this a stunt by the SF Dcal minister Carál Ní Chuilín?

    Yes it was and it appears to possibly have broken the Data Protection Act. If so, then her Department is now open to action by all those whose identities were improperly released. Will the Standards Commissioner investigate? With this and all the others poor Douggie will be busy

    Now will anyone request aqny files on the Minister’s own or her old coimrade’s past involvement in murders, attempted murders and other crimes. If so I am sure that she will remain just as open.

  • Braid man

    If DCAL Minister can authorise disclosure of public documents then I assume the minister has also the power to withhold documents related to FOI requests from DCAL. That would explain a lot about lack of government transparency.
    This case will no doubt enlighten us somewhat.

  • son of sam

    I note from the news this evening that there is a photo of the handover .The Minister obviously sought a certain level of publicity.Wonder why that could be?

  • michael-mcivor

    The opposed to the truth secretary of state the right un-honourable MP Theresa Villiers tells us what to read now as well as suggesting to Republicans where/when not to walk-the buffon-any wonder she could not catch a vote here-that job she has now should be held by someone who is actually elected here and is held accountable to the people here-north Korea is more democratic-

  • cynic2

    Last weeks Omagh show was great theatre. The Rupert telegram was produced to a drum roll as new evidence that proved MI5 knew about the car and that Omagh was the target. We even had a former head of Counter Terrorism in the UK on hand to lend weight to the call for ‘something to be done’ His opinion might have had more credibility had he not been sacked (sorry, retired early) for walking round the streets with Top Secret documents outlining counter-terrorism operations on plain view to any passing Jihadist or photo- journalist

    Great theatre but a few questions.

    The car in that Telegram seems to have been in Letterkenny under the control of RIRA there. But I always understood that the bombing was arranged from South Armagh / County Louth and the car used stolen a few days before the bombing. That has been the case in all the civil actions and the criminal case.

    So was that all wrong or was Rupert talking about a different plot in a different area using a different car and run by a different faction also calling itself the Real IRA – a plot that never seems to have gone anywhere. If so why is this new evidence so earth shattering?

    And why were we only allowed to see carefully selected snippets of the material? Its a bit rum calling for openness and disclosed from MI5 and HMG and then withholding the documents. So clearly there is a strategy in place here to ‘manage’ this.

    And why was Bob Quick there to comment last week? What is his interest in this case? Is it altruistic or has he been employed as an adviser or researcher? If so by whom? To evaluate his expert opinion we need to know. If there is an inquiry will he or any close colleagues have any interest in this? If so will there be any conflict of interest in the advice and how will that be managed? Fundamentally, why on earth has he suddenly popped up now in the middle of this?

    On one level I do feel that the Omagh families need and deserve closure on this. A quick sharp focused public inquiry might help in that. On the other hand a public inquiry surrounded by reams of well paid advisers and legal experts will go nowhere fast and just increase the anguish

  • iluvni

    A government minister with a terrorist past issues documents against advice with potential security implications…..and there’s no crisis in the Executive as a result?

  • michael-mcivor

    A government minister is covering up for her brit armys terrorist past and is opposed to familys getting the truth-she should be kicked out of office-that’s why she and her likes don’t seek the peoples votes here-their covering up for murder-

  • Tir Chonaill Gael

    ‘…that’s why she and her likes don’t seek the peoples votes here-their covering up for murder-‘

    This is the single greatest example of chutzpah ever seen on Slugger. Take a bow, Cllr. McIvor. Always such big talk for a draft-dodger.

  • michael-mcivor

    Tir Chonaill Gael-

    ” such big talk for a draft-dodger “-

    Cant say the same about yourself and the big brave UDR which you were a member of-

  • Tir Chonaill Gael

    What the hell are you talking about? I despise the UDR every bit as much as the scumbag Provo movement which destroyed Irish republicanism. Not content at murdering innocents by the hundreds, you’re now administering British rule in Ireland: comhghairdeas leat.

  • son of sam

    Is literacy a prerequisite for election to Cookstown Council?

  • cynic2

    “there’s no crisis in the Executive as a result?”

    There cannot be> it might provoke awkward questions about those property deals and contracts

  • cynic2

    ” I despise the UDR every bit as much as the scumbag Provo movement which destroyed Irish republicanism”

    Be fair now> After they were defeated militarily and in intelligence terms there wasn’t much else for them to do. Like the Russians your ideology lost the battle…not its all about money

  • cynic2

    “Is literacy a prerequisite for election to Cookstown Council?”

    Well you have to sign the registration forms but beyond that its an encumberance

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Never mind them, michael, Gerry Adams was a draft dodger too.

  • …Gerry Adams was a draft dodger too..

    That’s one of the wittiest comments I’ve seen on SOT in quite some time.

  • SirJohnDill

    At least spell the man’s name right! Surely the first premise of the most basic journalism?
    HAASS — 2As, 2 Ss
    Haas, with 2As and 1S = rabbit in German. And the ultra political-couldbe-any-US-party-member, Haass, is no rabbit!

  • “Memo to Richard Haas:
    Hass committee”

    @Brian Walker,

    Is it too much for a historian to learn how to spell the name of an American mediator, Richard Haass, mediating here…or at least to misspell it consistently?

  • Brian Walker

    apologies tmitch.. corrected, thanks

  • aquifer

    I’m bored with the troubles and have a bit of catching up to do with the get a life thing. We did not intern the people so it is OK to hold some selected truths as hostages until other selected truths are released. Democratic states are not perfect, but generally much better than revolutionary juntas after they assume power, or warring sectarian militias, so I don’t give those who pursue violence past the point of futility any comfort excuse or release from blame.

    How about a bit of openness about the future instead?

    Religious cults abusing women and sectarian gangs deploying armed blackmail to compel compliance and submission. Sky high energy prices, competition with everybody else in the world for food and resources, flooding of large agricultural areas and cities by salt water.

    i.e. The stuff politicians have a hard time fixing so are disinclined to discuss.

  • cynic2

    Ha….this openness is overrated especially in the SDLP when it comes to African junkets and the mates / family of senior party members.

    Is this just part of their grand strategic plan. Noses to the troughs boys. You look more like FF every day

  • cynic2

    Religious cults abusing women – all the parties except SF on the abortion issue

    Sectarian gangs deploying armed blackmail to compel compliance and submission – the UVF and Dissers witha good measure of physcial force threat from PIRA thrown in

    Sky high energy prices – the SDLP prize again for setting ist face against fracking and cheap gas and locking NI into high prices and high employment – an off the cuff decision by a minister just in post who cant have had time to read the papers

    competition with everybody else in the world for food and resources – yet we don’t support local companies and have one party (SF) tied to a quasi Marxist policy that has failed time and time again

    flooding of large agricultural areas and cities by salt water.
    – all those floods of crocodile tears from our elected representatives on every issue

  • Mc Slaggart

    cynic2

    “Sky high energy prices – the SDLP prize again for s

    Setting ist face against fracking and cheap gas and locking NI into high prices and high employment – an off the cuff decision by a minister just in post who cant have had time to read the papers ”

    Can you explain how we would be able to purchase this gas cheap? I think it would be sold at the going market rate?

    Most jobs from fracking go to people who already understand the equipment and thus they do not employ that many local people.

    If the gas does get into the water supply in Fermanagh it will destroy the area for tourism. Is it not better to wait another 10 years till the technology has matured and the gas is worth a lot more to the economy.

  • Neil

    If the gas does get into the water supply in Fermanagh it will destroy the area for tourism. Is it not better to wait another 10 years till the technology has matured and the gas is worth a lot more to the economy.

    The gas supposedly under our feet will be worth as much or more in ten years time, so yeah. Sit back and let Cameron and chums wreck the English countryside first then if Sammy turns out to be right we can get stuck right in there.

  • cynic2

    Yeah, oil rich states like Saudi Arabia and Norway dont benefit from their oil revenues. Doh

    The jobs wont go to locals? Not while they sit on their backsides don’t train and moan about emigration and how hard done by they are

    All those foreign workers will sleep with our weemin too – just like the Yanks did it

  • cynic2

    If the gas does get into the water supply in Fermanagh it will destroy the area for tourism.

    Doesn’t most water in Fermanagh come from reservoirs filled by rain? And are the watercourses already polluted with cow dung and the effluent from laundered diesel

    This is such a potential huge boost it cannot be ignored

  • cynic2

    Can you explain how we would be able to purchase this gas cheap?

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-05-29/fracking-environment-gas/55845708/1

    look especially at the price drop in dry natural gas over the last year!!

    Its basic economics. As supply rises prices fall as firms seek to sell more to make profits. Demand will then rise but it will all balance at a point in the middle which will almost always be below the starting price

    This could be a boom but the dreary Steeple Dwellers will fight like hell to prevent progress

  • Comrade Stalin

    cynic2, I see the graph but the only way it could make sense is for the USA to be a closed market for natural gas.

    We are connected to a pipeline network that criss-crosses Europe. Since we are a free market, why would the gas drillers keep the gas here rather than selling it to the highest bidder (ie probably China) ?

  • America is exporting a lot of this shale gas too and expects to sell much more..

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: We are connected to a pipeline network that criss-crosses Europe. Since we are a free market, why would the gas drillers keep the gas here rather than selling it to the highest bidder (ie probably China) ?
    So long as there are transport costs for gas, a local energy market will benefit.
    Mc Slaggart: Most jobs from fracking go to people who already understand the equipment and thus they do not employ that many local people.
    If the business expands, the job market will expand. Local engineering graduates, technical apprentices, drivers, builders should all be champing at the bit. Most of the employees won’t be specialists anyway, and in any case a company moving in for a decade or two will be willing to train local people up after the initial exploration phase is over.

  • Neil

    There’s no major urgency. A fantastic case study in the effects of fracking will be carried out in England somewhere over the next couple of years. We can wait for the results. The gas is going to be just as valuable in a few years time, probably more so, so if England can prove it’s safe and worthwhile then we can get stuck in. They’ll be the ones that benefit from any money generated through fracking anyway, by reducing our ‘defecit’ a bit.

  • cynic2

    Comrade Stalin

    The market in Europe is dominated by Russia and driven by political factors as well as market forces. Its not a totally free market and there are always transmission costs as well. Having a local supply will dramatically affect HMGs hand in the gas price game as well as enabling it to levy taxes on extraction.

    If the Executive was smart that’s where they would go rather than the chimera of corporation tax