Declan Kearney’s blog over at the BelTel on the Secretary of State’s 7th March speech is worth highlighting for a number of reasons. One, it comes a full seven days after the Villiers speech. And two the argument begins with an odd reference to ‘narrative’:
By setting out the primacy of a single narrative, and rejecting the use of immunity as one instrument to assist in dealing with the past, the British Government has come out against the Haass compromises.
That is a very retrograde political position. But the ramifications of her remarks extend even further.
The OTR administrative scheme was not a side deal. Resolving this issue was agreed with the two governments in the context of the Weston Park Agreement and as an element of our conflict resolution process.
Theresa Villiers knows that.
Her speech indicates this government has now stepped away from Weston Park. Such a decision poses huge questions about the Conservative government’s commitment to all the other Agreements over the last fifteen years.
And, that is a very serious political development.
Problems one and two for Declan is that the Weston Park ‘agreement’ on OTRs was not an agreement at all. Nor indeed did the Haass talks end in any implementable compromise.
Problem number three is that failure to agree on all of these fronts is only really a ‘serious political development’ for his party rather than for anyone else.
As has been noted here (though with the honourable exception of Newton Emerson last Saturday it has hardly made an appearance elsewhere) fishing for a selective ‘use of immunity’ sets Sinn Fein somewhat at odds with several victims groups it has been supporting.
Most of those groups were to the foremost in lobbying against the Northern Offence Bill in 2006. But so too were the Police Federation, Police families and ex Policemen .
Which suggests that former RUC men and women would gladly see state miscreants go to the wall, if only as a constructive way of rescuing the force’s sullied reputation under the narrative most favoured by Declan and Sinn Fein.
Unsurprisingly perhaps when so many senior assets could be put at risk in any renewed prosecution scenarios, the Sinn Fein chair is making it clear that he’s not in favour of such a clean sweep across the piste.
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