Another ‘Flaw’ in the plan for an Historical Inquiries Unit…

Cillian McGrattan made a good point in yesterday’s Newsletter…

The latest attempt at providing a policy programme for dealing with the past, flags, parades and welfare reform, the Stormont House Agreement (SHA), is an ambiguous document that contains many unanswered questions.

One critically important grey area concerns the role of the Irish government in any future initiative to deal with the past. For example, the SHA contains a troubling discrepancy between what the British and Irish governments promise in relation to that area.

It holds the British Government to ‘make full disclosure’ to the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) – the body that will, it is envisaged, replace the police investigations into unresolved murders and the Police Ombudsman.

Only the British Government is required to make full disclosure. The document contains the disparity that the Irish government pledges ‘full cooperation of all relevant Irish authorities, including the disclosure of information and documentation’.

It’s only one of several design flaws with the HIU. In fact by sheer dint of the fact the HIU is part of the UK jurisdiction, it would be difficult for the Irish state to make itself unconditionally accountable to an organ of the British state.

As Jim Allister has pointed out, no one knows when this institution is likely to arrive (timescales and objectives are for other politicians, not ours).

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.

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