“We’re not trapped in our past; we are trapped in a distrust stoked by our leaders”

Warren Little in his column for the Impartial Reporter makes some critical points on the OTR issue. First, unfinished business:

Other questions remain. Why did Peter Hain tell Parliament that he had no proposals for OTRs without mentioning the scheme? Why did he subsequently talk about having to ‘cut deals’ if the letters were merely factual assessments of the OTRs’ current status? Why were victims’ families not informed, at least on a no-names basis? That latter failure is glaring, and illustrates how the only players in this game were Sinn Fein and the Government. When elephants jostle, it is the grass that is trampled.

He concludes with some reflections on the political deficits that pushed a deal underground that the new political establishment could not bring itself to sell:

The Downey judgment was the right decision. Galling, but right, because the wider justice system would be undermined if convictions were to arise from unfair dealing. It has also forced into public awareness a scheme that was kept off the radar and stands as a sharp rebuke to those who might usurp due process.

We must decide where we go from here. We are not a people trapped in our past; we are a people trapped in a distrust stoked by our leaders. The Good Friday Agreement killed the notion that we are incapable of compromise. We made that giant leap of faith in releasing prisoners and we did so because the facts were laid open before us.

Had the OTR scheme been conducted with that same candour, it might have received the same brave nod of approval. Instead, we are left with a mess of accusation and counter-accusation, a public fearing the unknown, and a ‘fragile’ criminal justice system reeking of political interference.


  • I wonder who exactly we are meant to trust or distrust.
    As I have a view of how the future should pan out, then I think its fairly obvious that I trust those who can or at least seek to deliver the same vision.
    As a nationalist…I trust unionists…to be unionists. And I have a lot of respect for them.
    I dont trust the “middle ground”. For the sake of harmony, I will avoid any designation that they find offensive (I wont make a habit of it).
    But they are in a position to undermine my position much more than any unionist.
    My distrust of them is entirely understandable.
    They want to advance their own position at the expense of mine.

    Yet it is hardly normal to trust an enemy.
    Only really possible to trust “our own”.
    And Id go further and say its only really possible to distrust “our own”.
    The dissidents distrust mainstream Sinn Fein. They hardly have a view of unionists, one way or the other.
    Likewise in degrees …the Fleggers are distrustful of “their own”. They hardly have SF in their “people I trust” column but are overly fond of looking for “lundys”.

    Certainly as a SDLP supporter, I find it difficult….even with the caveat of Australian and Balmoral…to really trust a party member who is an “economic unionist”.
    So I dont actually think that our political leaders…actually stoke Distrust.
    Distrust comes from the ranks…not from the Top.

    Do unionists really trust the British Govt?
    Do nationalists really trust the Irish Govt?
    Realistically political parties can only sell out their own people.
    Peter Hain? Blair? Mowlam? …Cameron? Kenny?
    Would you really need to hear a leader from your own faction tell you not to trust these people?
    Mandelson? Thatcher?
    Is your sense of Trust or Distrust really something you have been given by leaders?
    Or is it from within?

  • “That latter failure is glaring, and illustrates how the only players in this game were Sinn Fein and the Government.”

    We know from the judgement that the Irish government was involved too and it’s possible that the US government might also have been a player.

    32. Also on 2 May 2000 there were meetings at the Irish Embassy in London between officials from both governments and Sinn Fein.

  • “We made that giant leap of faith in releasing prisoners and we did so because the facts were laid open before us.”

    Prisoners were released without a quid pro quo on decommissioning and this did huge damage to both the UUP and the SDLP.

    “That’s one of the most remarkable things about him [Tony Blair]. This man with a moral dimension to everything, who applied morality to nothing. I got increasingly to the point where I wouldn’t have taken his word for anything. And that was as a result of the dealings that I had with him.” .. Seamus Mallon

  • socaire

    Nevin, did Shame-us not realise that to get a settlement you have to deal with the strongest parties. Nobody deals with losers. ‘Sour’ and ‘grapes’ come to mind.

  • socaire, when governments appease thugs, democracy and justice are the losers.

  • socaire

    Nevin, ‘thugs,democracy and justice’ are, as you well know, all subjective terms depending on whether you are in power or not. Like ‘all right thinking people’ 🙂

  • Politico68

    I don’t believe for a second that the majority of people of the six counties are tremplng with fear or particularly bothered by revelations about a criminal justice system in a statelet that was morally corrupt and politically rogue for decades. Leaders cannot implant trust they can only play the game as they find it and hope they do ok.

  • babyface finlayson

    “Why were victims’ families not informed, at least on a no-names basis?”
    That is surely the germane point.
    Since the letters were statements of fact it is just possible to argue that they were not a de facto amnesty. Though I think the Ballymurphy families and others will be unlikely to get any justice now. And more details may still emerge to suggest that some of the holders of these letters could have been worth a bit more investigating.
    But putting that aside, how can SF justify being party to not informing families about such important developments in investigations

  • Mick Fealty

    Ian Paisley Junior claiming the SoS says the administrative scheme is over (though the BBC News site is not yet running with that.

    Most of those on the programme understandably seemed to be struggling to understand what that means.

    I think Paul McFadden suggested a legal action might, although personally I doubt that by the pure administrative nature of the deal itself.

    Interesting turn…

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, they can’t bf. That’s why they’ve gone so quiet. It would have risked the ‘game’ of pinning all the blame for the troubles on the state.