Haass knew nothing of Sinn Fein’s OTR side-deal before he tried ‘dealing with the past’

Yesterday’s briefing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Highlights include a thorough briefing from Baroness Nuala O’Loan which starts with some of the victims groups who are hungry for some form of truth recovery.

But right at the end of her presentation she hits a fairly pristine note in the context of the crisis that has followed the revelation of the #ShinnersList:

I don’t think we can have a legal system which criminalises young people for marching down the street or those who protest at others who march down the street whilst it fails to deal with those who are suspected of more serious crime.

It’s clear even from Dr Haass’s early remarks that he has become a Belfast Agreement sceptic.

Perhaps that’s not surprising since the DUP based its public pitch on the idea that St Andrews was a fresh start on from the Good Friday Agreement (it largely wasn’t).

Sinn Fein for their part wasted little time in treating the GFA as a starting gun for a government by negotiation model, in which no deal is too loose to wriggle out of.

Interestingly Haass also told the committee that “all he knew about the On the Runs letters had come from the public revelations regarding their existence”.

So Haass knew nothing about this private deal over how the past was to be handled before going into a process to determine how the past was to be handled?

He did offer however the opinion that since this was not an official amnesty it had no effect.

Well, there’s a House of Commons Committee looking into whether the last Labour government did or did not set the wishes of parliament on that matter right now.

It is interesting to note that this particular house subcommittee (Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations) did take submissions from two victims of state violence.

It may have something to do with the committee’s brief no one who had suffered from Loyalist or Republican violence (responsible for 3000 out nearly 3700 deaths) appeared.

But even the view of the two victims who did appear were not directly of a single mind over what they wanted to be done.

Geraldine Finucane was clear that ‘gunmen were two a penny at the time’ saying that convictions were not necessary in her husband’s case. She wants know who was in the chain of command that gave the order to have her husband Pat murdered in cold blood.

But with no clarity over extra GFA and extra parliamentary clandestine agreements between Sinn Fein and the state, what chance is there of Mrs Finucane getting what she needs without some future political agreement?

And, post the revelation of the existence of the #ShinnersList, any such agreement seems further away than ever. Not least when Dr Haass seems content to accept that not all parties to his process were on working on level playing field.

In his own words

“I don’t see the society sowing the seeds of its own normalisation, of its own unity, if neighbourhoods and schools are still divided.

What worries me in that kind of environment – particularly where politics are not shown to be making progress – alienation will continue to fester and violence, I fear, could very well re-emerge as a characteristic of daily life.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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