Well Eamonn, those are your doubts about the latest legacy proposals, but what would you do differently?

In the Irish Times Eamonn McCann is sceptical about the proposed Stormont House Agreement Bill’s ability to deal with the past.

At Westminster on October 12th, Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers will introduce legislation on dealing with the past. But the chances of it working are very small.

Even handedly, he shares fears that both the Bloody Sunday police investigations involving the army, and the  information given under immunity on the Disappeared involving the IRA, will finally and  quietly result in closure, setting  precedents for most if not all other open cases.

After 30 years of Troubles, and an avalanche of charges of official collusion, cover-up , feet dragging over inquests and perceived flawed mechanisms like the Historical Enquiries Team, trust is bound to be thin.

The British Government has pledged “full cooperation” with a new independent Historical Investigations Unit  – subject of course to “ national security”. I can hear the hollow laughs. But at least there’ll be massed  ranks of  lawyers and politicians to hold them and  the Irish government to account according to their own standards expressed in law. The Bill is clearly  an acknowledgment that past measures were inadequate and amounts to a fresh initiative.  The Committee for the Administration of Justice’s (CAJ’s )  proposals would stiffen the guarantees of independence but are  in line with the government’s proposals.

There are other questions that Eamonn  doesn’t deal with here. There is disagreement over what  is available in the records for  even a beefed up Historic Investigations to uncover. Remember Attorney General John Larkin’s dramatic entry into the affair in an opinion hotly disputed by Nuala O’Loan among others?  And note the attack on the discrediting of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET)  by its champion, the former chief constable Hugh Orde,  who is hardly a typical defender of the old order.

There is a basic issue over the level of expectations of what any system of investigation can uncover.. Politicians would do well not to raise them too high. Perhaps tacit acceptance of this is why these aspects of the Stormont House Bill may be inching towards agreement.  Governments with the best of intentions can only deliver so much, whether or not the British government is among them.Walls of silence on both sides are as pervasive as peace walls and will as take long, or even  longer, to come down.

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  • Slater

    It’s not about killers getting convicted but the rewriting of history to gain equivalence between the security forces and the IRA. 98% of HIU activity will be around the state’s actions. Anyone who believes otherwise needs to actually read Amnesty and CAJ’s material.

  • Granni Trixie

    Given there is not an agreed narrative/explanation for the troubles it is inevitable that investigation of the past is cox a bloc with tensions.

    I found your ref to CAJ and Amnesty ambiguous in that I was not sure if you are holding their reports up as authorities or because of their bias?

    Bear in mind that during the troubles Amnesty which did wonderful work beyond NI during the troubles had a rule not to do so During The troubles.

    As for the CAJ ,well, although it had a prime focus on justice including policing systems, it simply refused to take any interest in punishment beatings. I noted in the 90s for example that the CAJ
    office had not a single box of information on the topic of pun beatings yet dozens of shelves of information on every aspect of policing. Blinkered or what? But I hope illustrates the problem investigations will face.

  • John Collins

    Of course several terrorists, both Nationalists and Loyalist, spent long periods in prison for their misdemeanours. I don’t recall too many of the security forces joining them in the clink for their misdeeds.

  • Granni Trixie

    Which is relevant because…? What I am getting at is that the security forces who broke the law not being jailed is wrong of course but not relevant to the question of is it possible for investigators of the past locate wrongdoing accurately in context if all the evidence available comes from state sources and none whatsoever from paramilitary sources?