Powell: Releasing prisoners was not easier for Nationalists; it’s ignorant and offensive to suggest otherwise

Responding to the latest attempts by the DUP to take ownership and responsibility for nothing that occurred in Northern Ireland before Ian Paisley was finally crowned, as First Minister, official leader of the unionist tribe, Blair’s former right-hand, Jonathan Powell, has just claimed something extraordinarily vulgar.

Releasing murderers as part of the Good Friday agreement after only two years in prison was an extraordinarily difficult thing for the government to do and an extraordinarily difficult thing for particularly the unionist community in Northern Ireland to swallow – but you have to have these difficult compromises of you are going to an agreement – you can’t just say it’s all going to be for one side.

(Emphasis mine.)

Extraordinary is the wrong word, of course. After all, Her Majesty’s [former] representative is only bearing witness to the British state’s traditional approach to victims, and those responsible for creating them. This approach helped (1) sustain the conflict for so long in the first place, and (2) explain the conspicuous lack of killers from the army and various “security services” who ever ended up in prison in the first place.

Highlighting these hierarchies and their persistence to this day isn’t simply a matter of record keeping and score settling.

It’s exactly attitudes like these that continue to shape our contemporary stale, short-tempered, entitled, and put-upon political dynamics that see Stormont act as a vehicle for entrenching past divisions rather than creating the shared space – and some grace – required to get past them.

Strategic Communications Consultant, located Washington DC