The long and winding road to dealing with the past stretches ahead at Westminster. Will it turn out to be a dead end?

All Northern Ireland parties and groups including victims are united on one thing. They are opposed to the UK government’s NI Troubles, (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill. Nevertheless the Bill began its long passage to become law – or not –in the House of Lords last Wednesday. The Lords debate presents a good opportunity to air the issues in one place in this lengthy post. A vote will eventually be held on whether to recommend scrapping the Bill entirely or heavily …

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Former chief justice’s frustrations boil over at deadlock over the Legacy Bill. He tells MPs : “people need a kick up the bottom.”

The former Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan allowed his frustrations to boil over at a hearing of the Commons NI Committee yesterday examining the government’s Legacy bill. The earlier draft Bill  dating back 12 years for a with a powerful Historical Investigations  Unit at its core which had been finally  endorsed by most local parties was abruptly scrapped by the British government and replaced by a radical new version for a de facto amnesty.   Not that they admit to …

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The UK government must do better than this wretched legacy bill. But an amnesty is still inevitable

Last week the Bishop of Derry dedicated a garden to the memory of a 15 year old Derry boy Manus Deery, shot dead by the British Army in the Bogside on the 50th anniversary of his death. As the Derry Now website reported: Manus had just started working after leaving St Joseph’s Secondary School and was eating a bag of chips and carrying a comic in his back pocket which he had bought with his first wage packet… At the …

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Legacy: “There are others who live with not knowing whilst hoping for something else…”

cherry blossoms, landscape, spring

A good friend whose political views differ from mine was also in attendance on the evening before. He wondered why I did not engage in the discussion. I explained that had I done so, my comments would have presented as… “but, what about..? Until the victims of Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy are ready to say: ‘What about Claudy and Ballykelly’ and the victims of Claudy and Ballykelly feel they can say: “What about Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy,’ will we be where …

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A southern truth and reconciliation process meets with inevitable northern scepticism

A brave attempt to break the deadlock between the British government’s proposal for a Troubles  amnesty and the refusal  of all other parties and groups to contemplate it  received  an airing  in a webinar  last Friday hosted by UCD academics. (TRP) is a group of southern independent great and good.. Their webinar was chaired by an Irish High Court Judge Mr Justice Richard Humphries, so presumably  they have influence . They support the implementation of a ‘Truth Recovery and Reconciliation …

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A Troubles history based on British records will not be the whole story but it’s still worth it

Irish Times columnist and distinguished historian Diarmaid Ferriter dismisses the  British government proposal for an “official” British history of the Troubles. Although it could hardly be the last word, this is a project I believe is well worth exploring if it means opening state archives to independent historians. If an amnesty of some sort is passed, greater access to state records would be part of the deal, to accompany the end of prosecutions. While such a deal  would produce furious …

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Professional historians will be wary of terms like these for writing an official History of the Troubles

  The Daily Telegraph reports… An official history of The Troubles will be commissioned under government plans, amid fears the narrative of the conflict is being distorted by republicans. It would also focus on the role of the British Government and Armed Forces in the 30-year sectarian conflict, including the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972, when 13 civilians were shot dead by troops.  If signed off, the official history project would sit alongside a package of measures announced earlier this year to …

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Gazing back 100 years will lead to a crick in the neck rather than the insights we need to grow…

highway, mountain, trees

And to finish the week, Newton Emerson throws some light on the politics of the President’s refusal to come Armagh in October as a part of the decade of centenaries… Under his Machnamh centenary programme, described as “inviting reflections on the War of Independence, the Treaty Negotiations, the Civil War and Partition”, the President has spent a year hosting academic seminars on contested commemoration, ethical remembering and, above all, on colonialism as the overriding context for the centenary. It is …

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The stance adopted by President Michael D Higgins can feed into reflection, even if he has retreated from the scene.

castle, ruin, exit

It’s unusual for the DUP, and other Unionists for that matter, to be exercised at the non-visit of a President of Ireland. The reaction sounds like a mixture of genuine disappointment, wounded vanity and point-scoring. In the case of the DUP, glass houses come to mind. Whatever the reason, the nature of the clamour achieves little and has launched a tirade of sniping political comment on social media. This is something which Archbishop Eamon Martin, shortly after the low-key launch …

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The comprehensive case for rejecting general amnesty without further legal process.

Scene outside  the Law Courts in Belfast during the Ballymurphy Inquest  The Model Bill team of NI academics led by Profs Kieran Mc Evoy and Louise Mallinder and the Committee for the Administration of Justice has delivered a scathing analysis of the UK Government’s proposal for an amnesty or statute of limitations, which they’ve entitled “Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past”. The team had previously produced a report for making the Stormont House Agreement work effectively.  At its core, …

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The outgoing chief justice Declan Morgan calls for progress on the legacy and political reform

Attention in the legal  world will focus today in the swearing in of  Lady Chief Justice  Siobhan Keegan, the first woman  to hold the chief justice post ( and  the third Catholic in a row – so perhaps that’s one dragon that’s finally been slain) . Young for the job at 50 and entirely home grown, it may be no coincidence that she presided over the Ballymurphy inquest which although not a trial, provided at the very least ample justification for …

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The genie of amnesty is out of the bottle. Not the last word, but the beginning of the end.

The British government’s announcement of a statute of limitations has not only united all parties against them.  It has also exposed the weaknesses of everybody’s positions including their own. All  other parties are insisting on a role for justice while admitting there’s very little hope left of achieving it. As justice for victims and relatives is unobtainable in most cases, what is the point of holding out for years for the remote chance of a trial?  After decades of deadlock …

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Legacy: Who are we moving on for?

Northern Ireland, it seems, has a problem with moving on. Decades (centuries) of strife and conflict. The pain, the trauma, all of it passed down from generation to generation. In the year of our lord 2021, we’re still angry about it all. Still hurt, still frustrated and in pain. Step forward the Prime Minister and his Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis.  They have seen the light and taken a bold, brave step to help us move forward. The government has …

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This time, it’s the Troubles legacy. Northern Ireland opinion on a key issue, even when substantially in agreement, is being overruled by Johnson’s Conservatives

The devil will be in the detail but as a example of news management in advance, the UK Government’s plans for a Troubles amnesty could hardly be worse for opinion in  Northern Ireland Veterans who served in Northern Ireland are finally set to be freed from the threat of prosecution. In a victory for the Daily Mail, a planned statute of limitations will today be announced covering all incidents during the Troubles. The move by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is …

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To What End Are We Prepared To Handle The Legacy Of NI’s Past? A Proposal.

Introduction It is the lesson from that recent period of conflict which we call the “Troubles”, in which 3523 people were killed, 47,000 people were injured, relationships were torn asunder, parts of Northern Ireland ‘Balkanised’ and economic prosperity reduced in both parts of Ireland that violence inevitably leaves a legacy of lasting bitterness. Approximately 60% of the deaths were due to the actions of the Republican Movement, 30% to Loyalist Paramilitaries and 10% members of the Security Forces. In this …

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“To hell with the future and long live the past”. Allison Morris turns it around when contemplating a border poll. But has the EU Commission just changed the odds by uniting north and south against them ?

D The new Ulster University campus  under construction  In this year of different centenary  commemorations north and south (sorry,”markings”),  Allison Morris has written a terrifically interesting piece in  the Irish News . When it comes to  weighing the issues for a border poll, she raises the desire for a better life above the call of background, tradition and history, yes even the history of the Troubles. Without labouring the point, contrast this with the run of comment in the Newsletter …

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Hyde Park Bombing case opens a route for families the Stormont House Agreement forgot…

Interesting judgement in London yesterday which I think asks serious questions about how we are going about handling the legacy of the Troubles… Last year, a High Court judge ruled that John Downey was an “active participant” in the bombing.Last year, a High Court judge ruled that John Downey was an “active participant” in the bombing. On Wednesday, the court ruled that an award of “substantial damages” to “mark society’s condemnation” of the bombing can only be made if either …

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Lost Lives is a vital and eloquent riposte to “the old Lie”: Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori….

I have been to the Vietnam wall in Washington, twice. The second time was every bit as emotional as the first. It was the trouble in the world when I was a kid, until it became us. It cuts a scar in the landscape appropriate to the human mess it left, not just in those who died but in the quiet way old men come to say goodbye to their much younger fallen comrades. I’ve often thought of that great book …

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United pressure on Sinn Féin may be needed to break the legacy payments deadlock. Their own will benefit

dFM Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin Has Martina Anderson’s outburst distracted attention away from the substantive issue of the legacy payments deadlock, or given a boost to resolving it, following the court case requiring Michelle O’Neill in effect to remove her veto or exercise her option to resign? The scheme covers violence related to the Northern Ireland Troubles between 1966 and 2010, including incidents in Great Britain and Europe.. . People will get between £2,000 and £10,000 a year for the …

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Action not another inquiry is needed to tackle the Troubles’ legacy as well as the legacy of slavery

Fintan O’Toole has turned his attention to support a new proposal for dealing with the legacy. While well intentioned, this one has a flavour of rummaging in the bottom drawer for an idea.  The proposal (which I have signed, along with many others) is a product of widespread consultation with victims, with combatants from all sides and with people in politics and academia. The nub of it is conditional amnesty: a system in which those with personal knowledge of violent …

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