Bradley also expressed concern about the fate of thousands of one-time informers if there was “full disclosure” of all sensitive Troubles-related security files.
“What Robin Eames and I found out in our investigations leading to the Consultative Group on the Past report was that at any given time there were at least 800 informers working within the ranks not only of the loyalist paramilitaries but also the IRA. Others have said that figure was closer to 1,000.
“If there was full disclosure of files you would be going around saying that your sons, daughters, friends were all informers. Full disclosure would mean that and our society needs that no more than a hole in the head. Do we want every name brought out there? I don’t think so. Maybe in a thematic sense there can be full disclosure but leaving individual names out of this, yes. It would be far worse than the actual reality.
“What you should not do is expose Joe Bloggs who might have been buried as a hero but was in fact an informant for the Brits. That is what would happen countless times. Republicans and nationalists used to believe that all the informers were on the loyalist side when in fact as we found out in having limited access to security file was it was nearly as big as on the republican side.”
Bradley added that an already traumatised society such as Northern Ireland was being further traumatised by the political disagreements over how to deal with its violent past.
“I honestly don’t know how the politicians and the two governments in London and Dublin are going to get around this mess but it keeps each other at our throats and maintains a low level of pain. It is intensifying the collective PTSD this society is suffering.”
Adds Personally I’m in favour of Tim Garton Ash’s previous conclusion.
On balance, I remain convinced that the sooner you can do it the better. “It” should mean a rapid, scrupulous, individually appealable lustration of those in genuinely important positions in public life and, even more vital, some form of public reckoning with the larger issues of the difficult past. The necessary complement to a velvet revolution is something along the lines of a truth commission, which also gives people a sense of historical catharsis – otherwise often lacking in peaceful, negotiated transitions – and draws a clear line between dark past and better future.