So, Sir John Chilcot is shelving his inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War until after the general election (still five months away). Interestingly, Chilcot also features as a player in the very early stages of the NI Peace Process.
In a long detailed piece by Owen Bennett-Jones for the London Review of Books which discusses the origins of the claim that it was the Provisionals who led with a communication suggesting that ‘the conflict is over.’
His argument is that the Peace Process may have started with a an exaggeration, “or what others might call a falsehood”. Bennett Jones:
To ascribe the note to McGuinness was a big extra leap for Fred to make. The British government, after all, could have interpreted it as an IRA surrender. Major was fully aware of the importance of the sourcing: he asked for confirmation that it really was from McGuinness. The permanent undersecretary of state at the Northern Ireland office, John Chilcot, assured the prime minister it was.
‘What we told him,’ Chilcot recalled, ‘was, having worked it through and done some digging: yes it was authentic, it was from McGuinness and it was spoken with authority.’ How Chilcot made that mistake is not known, but one possibility is that he asked Fred and got the confirmation he wanted. Or he might himself have used deliberately ambiguous language, telling the prime minister that the message came from McGuinness in the sense that it accurately reflected McGuinness’s thinking.
Hmmmm… Well, that’s creative ambiguity for you… The whole process which has followed has been marked by that central characteristic, which more lately has become the two narrative approach to history and politics.
It’s rather inconvenient at this critical stage of his inquiry into Iraq, the dodgy dossier et al, that he may also have had form in finessing the actualite…
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