The Haass agenda on the past. The release of documents must include MI5’s and others in the secret state

The remarks by Teresa Villiers on dealing with the past will surprise no one. They serve as a reminder of who is ultimately in charge, despite bashfully standing on the sidelines.  The era of public inquiries is over. For good or ill there will be no public inquiry into Finucane, the “Ballymurphy massacre” or any other terrible incident with major question marks hanging over it.  Since Savile, the limitations of inquiries have been demonstrated at a cost of another hundred million pounds. That is good enough for the British government who still have oversight of the Troubles legacy under the rubric of “national security.”   There will be no State recognition of  a “conflict” between equal protagonists with fresh implications for compensation,  (although this is not to concede some sort of privileged  treatment for the security forces in the historic cases review, a process that seems to have been badly compromised.). A Legacy Commission as recommend by the discarded Eames- Bradley report looks out of favour not only on grounds of expense but because it could degenerate into a forum for whataboutery, rather than for confessions. No real incentive currently exists nor can one imagine a united approach to confessions emerging from the Haass talks.

Gerry Adams’ objections to Villiers’ “setting parameters “have a ritual ring to them. The former IRA and State agencies are in unholy alliance of mutual embarrassment against anything like full disclosure. This does not quite get them off the hook. Neither the local parties nor even the British government control of the process. Both are subject to law, which is a matter for an operationally independent police force which in turn is subject to scrutiny; and those who administer justice, the independent prosecutors, the coroners and the judges. All have showed signs of robust independence from time to time, most recently in HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s scathing findings of unequal handling of military and paramilitary cases by the historic enquiries team in July and the earlier example of the police enquiry into Bloody Sunday, an episode however definitive,  might already have been thought to have run its course.  Villiers seems to have ruled out the only instrument that would cut through all those spheres of discretion, a statute of limitations.

Nevertheless all political parties are tacitly united in their common lack of enthusiasm for vigorous further action. It would be a relief if they could find a form of words in the Haass talks to admit it. One method is to hand. The British are waiting for the parties to give their united support to an agreement on the release of  documents suitably redacted to conceal identities.  That could well become the parties’ main contribution to dealing with the past.

Much depends  on what documents would be made available. Protocols and a timetable  for their release should be made available for discussion at the Haass talks.To what extent would release be governed by the completion of the historic enquiries process, which now look subject to considerable delay?  Could they be challenged in court? (Almost certainly yes). Would they include RUC, Army and MI5 documents currently exempt from the new 20 year rule?  Who would be responsible for the release? To whom would they be released? Restricted or open?    In the right forensically skilled and investigative hands, the result could be a series of de Silva reports.  Will the nationalist parties settle for that?  The present history of MI5 by its official historian Christopher Andrew extends to the post 9/11 period but the history of MI6 by Queens’ own Keith Jeffrey finishes in 1949. Releasing  NI material which is still highly sensitive would be a new departure.

Before reaching the crunch point it would be beneficial if the parties should commission an analysis of how dealing with the past is being managed, to include :

An audit of all scheduled prosecutions, convictions and sentences by offence, term and affiliation.

How much of the HET process has been discredited?

Partly related to that and making the assumption that the extreme allegations of collusion and other illegal acts are exaggerated, what is the explanation for the huge disparity between paramilitary and security forces prosecutions and convictions?

What is the estimate of the number of forthcoming cases for criminal cases review by judges for “ unsafe” verdicts?

What is the current role and expectations of inquests?

The assumption is widespread that there is only a small number of cases left to consider.. Who will take responsibility for telling us?

Down the decades both sides have responded to pressure, the State with the spate of  inquiries ending in de Silva, republicans by some strategic expressions of regret notably over the  “disappeared . “ But beyond that the parties have traded slogans of  “one sided justice “ and “continuing the war by other means “versus “ no hierarchy of victims” ( including  former convicted terrorists).  Each cancels the other out. The British government has largely stayed aloof . All that needs to change.

Where’s the justice in it all  I hear you cry, in the era of DNA forensic evidence, the second Hillsborough enquiry and criminal cases reviews going back twenty, even fifty years, even down to hunting  90 year old Nazis?

The blunt fact is that apart from the occasional case pursued for what seems like the sake of appearances, individual justice was superseded by politics years ago. Politicians would do us all an immense favour if they owned up to that fact and accepted the burden it imposes on them to live up to it. Will they?

 

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  • Seamuscamp

    Alias

    The Jerusalem Post is hardly an unbiased source, is it? And to suggest all Western media is anti-Semitic rather ignores the substantial pro-Israeli media in the US, for example. It is undeniable that the IDF has used phosphorous shell against civilians – it is well documented. It is undeniable that Israel is storing up problems by occupying West Bank areas in contravention to international law. Israel has become the sort of democracy that existed in Greece thousands of years ago; or in NI a few decades ago. You know – we good; they bad.

    It is easy to label people as anti-Semitic if you are ignorant of the fact that Arabs are more Semitic than many Jews. But never mind, you are obviously happy with your own brand of bias.

  • Greenflag

    @ Reader,

    ‘I have just noticed that I stepped into an argument between Greenflag and Alias,

    There was no argument between Alias and myself .Alias took it upon himself to defend tjMitch57’s comment and I quote

    ” Republicans are like Arabs in their opposition to Zionism.’

    Whether Alias actually believes that I don’t know but it’s ‘comparitive” nonsense .

    tTmitch57’s follow on comment to a 4 county NI scenario i.e

    ‘Some 60 percent or more of the incidents in The Troubles took place in the Greater Belfast area–within the four counties.’

    is further indication that his knowledge of NI is much less than might be assumed and is more than likely tied in to a political agenda -So much for ivory tower supposed objectivity . Anybody who knows NI could probably have told tjmitch57 that 60% or more of NI ‘s population lives in the Greater Belfast conurbation anyway . A more detailed look at this area would have shown North Belfast as the main ‘killing field during the troubles .

    Kevsterino above suggested that tjmitch57 may have been attempting to be satirical .Which on slugger is fair enough -we’ve all been there -but perhaps he needs ‘practice ‘ 😉

  • Greenflag

    @ Alias ,

    Given your denial that the Israeli Defence Forces used phosphorus in their attack on Gaza despite the fact that the Israeli Ministry of Defence admitted it – do I have to assume that you know more about what happened in Gaza than the Israeli Ministry of Defence ? I know you can spell assume but in this case you are in denial and just being a gobshite .

    As Reader pointed out re Tjmitch57’s misinterpretation of my comment it should have read

    ‘Not the one where you defended the use of phosphorus bombs by Israeli forces and killing a thousand people including women and children in Gaza was it ? ”

    So it should have been an ‘and ‘ instead of an ‘in’ . The death total 1,000 was a much quoted approximation . The final death total was 500 more .. The Haaretz Daily quote above says it all.

    I stand over my comment on Israel’s right to exist .The world doesn’t need any more refugees flooding across national borders . Your comment on the half assed invented palestinian ‘nation is reminiscent of the kind of comments made re 19th century Ireland by the British Empires’ barons of the press and the then Conservatives /Tories .

    Some 20% of Israel’s population is Arabic Palestinian , and there are 3.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza combined . In addition half of the Jordanian population is Palestinian .

    It would make political sense for the Israeli powers that be to recognise the Palestinian nation before the Israelis themselves become a minority in their ‘own ‘ country .Anyway this thread has veered a long way from Mr Hass and his upcoming thankless task .

    A final note -I think (would hope ) that tjmitch57 can defend himself . If he can’t or won’t then he can’t expect his books to be read by more than 15 people or whatever the average is for tomes of this genre .

    I may have been unfair to tjmitch as I haven’t read his work but I will have a gander if I can find a copy and comment further on another thread .

    Keep your head down Alias and don’t lose it and I mean that literally 😉

  • ” ‘Some 60 percent or more of the incidents in The Troubles took place in the Greater Belfast area–within the four counties.’

    is further indication that his knowledge of NI is much less than might be assumed and is more than likely tied in to a political agenda -So much for ivory tower supposed objectivity . Anybody who knows NI could probably have told tjmitch57 that 60% or more of NI ‘s population lives in the Greater Belfast conurbation anyway . A more detailed look at this area would have shown North Belfast as the main ‘killing field during the troubles .”

    @Greenflag,

    I was always under the impression that North Belfast was within those four counties.

    Considering that you can’t even get my user name right, I’m not surprised that this fact would escape you.

  • Kevsterino

    tmitch57, I see nothing in Greenflag’s post that takes North Belfast out of those four counties.

    Where does he say that?

  • Greenflag

    Tjmitch57 ,

    ‘I was always under the impression that North Belfast was within those four counties.’

    I did’nt say it was’nt as Kevsterino also noted . My apologies if I got your user name wrong but I’ve never been keen/strong on these alphanumeric monikers or legalistic obfuscation of common sense . What is legal is not necessarly what is right :think slavery or apartheid or the Gulags or the WW2 concentration camps .

    The point was that if 60% of the violence took place where over 60% of the population lives then it follows as per the laws of numbers that 40% of the violence took place where 40% of the population lives . I just noted that North Belfast for reasons which others probably know more detail than I had probably a higher percentage of violent incidents and killings /murders /assassinations etc than it’s (North Belfast ‘s) population share .

    Anyway a four county NI is no longer possible as both Armagh and Down have large nationalist populations with both South Down and South Armagh having 80% plus nationalist majorities .I refer you again to Ian Livingstone’s excellent and detailed ‘Ulster’s Doomed’website for the numbers if they interest you .

    http://ulstersdoomed.blogspot.com/search/label/Demography.