Jim Allister has nailed the TUV’s 22 point analysis of the Haass/O’Sullivan draft agreement to
their website. In amongst the reiteration of TUV policy and ideology, Jim Allister does raise good points about: the wall
- the exclusivity of political representation on the proposed quangos (restricted to parties remaining in the Executive);
- the difficulty some current politicians would have to commit to support every decision of the present Parades Commission;
- the potential for the replacement parading bodies and process to reduce the number of parades through bureaucracy;
- the lack of detail on the recruitment and cost of the Historical Investigations Unit; and
- the lack of support for families and victims of post-1998 paramilitary attacks.
I doubt if any of the Executive parties will make their list of concerns public.
[It would be useful if someone could estimate the cost of setting up, staffing and running the new organisations proposed in the draft agreement to allow comparisons with existing bodies and the status quo of continuing to investigate the past and police NI in the absence of fresh ideas.]
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TUV’s analysis of the Haass proposals
1. Throughout the document there is not a single acknowledgement that for 30 years we faced a campaign of vicious terrorism; instead “terrorism” is sanitised down to “the conflict”, inferring the mutual responsibility of the terroriser and the terrorised. The IRA escapes even a single mention. The only time “terrorist” is mentioned is in the same breath as “freedom fighter” (p22). There is no acceptance that terrorism was wrong and never justified.
2. There is no righting of the great wrong contained in the present obscene definition of “victim”, which equates the victim with the victim-maker. (Why was such essential change not made a prerequisite requirement by every unionist and victim-supportive participant? Instead concessions were made with nothing in return on this vital issue.)
3. The proposals have nothing to offer on restoring the Union flag to its rightful place on Belfast City Hall, nor is there any advance on flying the flag at Stormont.
4. The paper is premised on lauding the Belfast Agreement and its perpetual process of concessions, but without even an aspiration to bring basic democratic rights of an Opposition and the capacity to vote a party out of office. Instead, the present contrived and failing arrangements are ring fenced from even the hint of change.
5. Six new expensive quangos are proposed. The main source of appointment is OFMDFM. Given the trade off basis on which it operates, this means McGuinness will have his quota of placemen ruling the vital issues of parading and the past! Some may see this as progress, TUV certainly does not.
6. Whereas patronage is guaranteed for executive parties in the composition of the numerous anticipated quangos, there is no place for anyone outside the executive five. Ourselves Alone rules supreme.
7. Overall it is hard to see anything in the proposals for unionists. Little wonder Sinn Fein is its greatest supporter, for it represents an opportunity to pocket a bit more and move on to the next stage of the concession process.
8. Though the titles have changed the essence of the parading proposals are centred on a Parades Commission mark 2, with the addition of even more bureaucratic hurdles.
9. Every public representative of the 5 executive parties would now be committed to support every decision of the present Parades Commission, a commission which some claim they repudiate. (P4/5)
10. Instead of ECHR Art 11 rights of freedom of assembly being paramount, under the agreement they would be tempered by deference to other claimed rights eg rights pertaining to commerce and what are called “societal interests” (things not expressly recognised in ECHR and thus of lesser status). (P4/5)
11. The stringent obligations on parade organisers include taking vicarious responsibility for full compliance by all participants, including bands, with imposed conditions and the ‘code of conduct’, which, it would, appear could give rise to both criminal and civil liability. (P7/8)
12. Anyone from anywhere can lodge an objection to any parade anywhere and in consequence the parade organisers must engage with them in “sustained and meaningful dialogue” (P9). Failure to agree will result in referral to the Adjudicating Authority. Also, failure to dialogue will be a criterion informing adjudication (P12). By making objection so easy and non specific, the situation is ripe for malevolent and organised objection to every parade anywhere. Given Sinn Fein’s past orchestration of objection, it now has a charter for unfettered objection as a vehicle to blight the entire parading tradition and force every parade into the protracted and convoluted dialogue and adjudication process.
13. Traditional routes and the use of arterial routes does not raise any presumption in adjudication, but, rather, rank no greater than interests such as potential disruption to community life or commerce (P12).
14. It is hard to escape the conclusion that a prime motivation in encasing parading in such a straight jacket of oppressive regulation is to encourage a diminution in the practice. Putting organisers through such needless hoops is an effort to discourage them from even bothering.
Flags and emblems:
15. The proposals talk of “a special and protected place” for Irishness (P16). Relying on the parity afforded by the perverse Belfast Agreement to Britishness and Irishness in this part of the UK, Haass (P15) proposed a role “for the sovereign flag of Ireland in conjunction with the Union Flag in this jurisdiction”. Such is the outworking of the pernicious Belfast Agreement, designed, of course, to ultimately make the Tricolour the flag of all Ireland. Just how much the Belfast Agreement is a process, not a settlement, is very evident from the opening paragraphs of the Haass proposals.
16. The proposal (P17) for a Commission to address not just flags, but cultural emblems, the Irish language and identity, is but another means to condition the public for meeting the republican agenda for change on all these issues and deliver another result when the concession meter next needs fed. Even public holidays are to be reviewed; stand by for a campaign to obliterate 12th July as a public holiday. And, of course, the cleansing of our councils of British symbols is in there too. (p17)
17. Even the law abiding majority are slighted by Haass with this slur and terror-excusing comment: “The vast majority assiduously eschewed violence, yet some may have contributed to the environment within which it flourished.” (P23) 18. Then, the criminal justice system, which saw several judges and hundreds of RUC officers murdered by the IRA, is slurred by Haass when he refers (p23) to convictions “by justice mechanisms which did not elicit full faith from all of society” (i.e. the terrorists and their acolytes who made the justice system a particular target for vilification).
19. Through the Historical Investigative Unit (HIU) a parallel police force is to be created, with equal investigative powers as the PSNI. Thus, arrests, searches, forensics etc will all be within their powers. How and when such will be recruited is scarcely covered, except it seems ex police officers will be barred. There appears to be little regard to the duplicate costs, but, clearly, money presently available for hospitals, schools etc will be diverted. Actions by “state actors”, such as the RUC and UDR, will be more readily investigated than the criminality of the terrorists. State files and records will be available and compellable; terrorist secrets will remain hidden. So, the prospect is of the RUC and UDR being hung out to dry while the IRA continues to escape.
20. The alternative Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR) is a pitiful substitute for the justice that innocent victims crave. Untested, even anonymous, self-serving terrorist versions of the “truth” provide more opportunity for Provo rewrite of history than satisfaction for innocent victims. Smithwick is a recent reminder that even what the Provos tell can’t be believed. And, then, as a bonus the terrorist gets immunity, both criminal and civil, on the information provided and can preserve his anonymity (p34). Little wonder, again, Sinn Fein are so keen!
21. The proposal that ICIR will also investigate “themes” is key to the republican agenda to rewrite history. Already we’ve had a diet of “collusion” allegations for years, now, as a theme it will be elevated and given credence by ICIR pursuit of it. (P33) Again, state records will be interrogated, but if border genocide was investigated as a theme there will be no Provo archives opened up. A wholly lopsided approach and outcome will result.
22. Haass provides nothing for post April 1998 victims, like Omagh victims or the families of IRA victims Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn. It wouldn’t do to remind anyone that the IRA went on killing!
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about, reports from, live-tweets and live-streams civic, academic and political events and conferences. He delivers social media training/coaching; produces podcasts and radio programmes; is a FactCheckNI director; a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland; and a member of the Corrymeela Community.