Eames-Bradley process ‘should have done more to take the Irish government with it’ – says Denis Bradley

The Eames-Bradley process should have engaged more closely with the Irish government and ensured it was on board with the recommendations, says co-chair Denis Bradley in the latest Forward Together podcast.

Eames-Bradley – properly called the Consultative Group on the Past – was published more than a decade ago and was intended to provide a way of dealing with the past and the needs and concerns of victims and survivors.Denis says “I do [think the] report itself is an extremely good report.  One of the worries when you do a report is that you think, was there a big pothole that we didn’t see coming? That hasn’t happened. The report has been incredibly good in that sense. The difficulty with the report is that there was only one government involved.  I think that was a major mistake and I blame myself to some degree for that…. Remember that was when the Celtic Tiger was beginning to explode. But even without the Celtic Tiger exploding, they [the Irish government] were so cynical around it they were very reluctant to engage. I pleaded with them to be engaged.”

Denis says it was the lack of commitment to the report from the Irish government that damaged it rather than the controversial recommendation for each victim’s family to be given a payment of £12,000.

He explains: “So when the report came to its fruition and when the British government were faced with the possibility that unionism was kicking at this thing and saying we’re not going to have this because it looks as if there’s going to be given money to the family of people who were terrorists and so forth….. We won’t have moral equivalence, which was their big thing. Basically their government ran away….. When [only] one government is engaged, I think that you do not get the roundness.”

Denis rejects the suggestion that it was the issue of payments that undermined the Eames-Bradley acceptance.  “That’s not true. There were five things within the report that could have been quite explosive. And people saw the payment one because it was the most explosive.”

Asked whether we should now return to Eames-Bradley, Denis stresses: “You have to deal with the past.”

Denis also addresses the structure of government in Northern Ireland, criticising the zero sum game approach of the major parties.  “In other words if they get 50%, we get 50%…. But the outflow of that is that we have ended up with institutions that don’t function particularly well.”

But that is not the only problem we have now.  Denis expands: “Remember there’s many ways in which we stand on the shoulders of the Good Friday Agreement – but there’s even a greater way in which we stand on the shoulders of Anglo-Irish relationships.  And Anglo-Irish relationships have gone off kilter.”  Denis believes the governments mistakenly took a back step to leave the politics of the north to mature.

The challenge now is that Brexit has thrown society into uncertainty, as well as chaos.  “Our problem at the moment is we don’t know where we’re going,” he argues. “It isn’t time yet to settle down and make large decisions.”

The latest podcast interview is available here and covers Denis’s reflections on civil society, creating a shared society and the past.  A further podcast will be released later this week in which Denis discusses the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.

The podcasts are also available on iTunes and Spotify.


  • Holywell Trust receives support for the Forward Together Podcast through the Media Grant Scheme and Core Funding Programme of Community Relations Council and Good Relations Core Funding Programme of Derry City and Strabane District Council.