Where Barra Magrory leads on dealing with the past, others will follow

No longer inhibited by  his former office, the ex- DPP Barra Magrory   isn’t alone in believing that an independent Historical Investigations Unit will produce few results for victims, survivors and families and could be more divisive than reconciling.  The best to be  hoped for is that once a renewed effort to bring cases to trial is made over five years, politicians and the public will face up to the issue of a calling halt to prosecutions, combined with a release … Read more

Avoid a battle of the narratives. The Chief Constable and Police Ombudsman appeal for agreement emerging from the proposed legacy process

Eamonn Mallie has published  transcripts of Chief Constable George Hamilton and Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire addressing a gathering at Queen’s University on the approaches they hope will be  adopted on the consultation just launched on dealing with the past. I shamelessly share them with warm thanks to Eamonn. Both  men plead for responders not to adopt a polarised or polemical position right from the start and take the broader view that works for reconciliation. They also call for a … Read more

“Statute of Limitations” would subvert the Belfast Agreement’s conditions on Troubles related murder

Tom Kelly on why the statute of limitations cannot be applied one-sidedly. In any case, he says, the provisions of the Belfast Agreement for a two-year sentence is an important mark of justice, which delineates the difference between innocent and guilty: The IRA didn’t act in the name of the Irish people and it justified its campaign with the most tenuous of links to an insurrection tradition from a different era. As a people, we were better at writing romantic laments … Read more

The unintended consequences of an amnesty for security forces are forensically exposed

The case for a selective amnesty for former security forces is powerfully refuted by the leading lawyer in the field Professor Kieran Mc Evoy of Queen’s in a Guardian article ( see below). Clearly someone got to Theresa May after Wednesday’s PMQs to make her change her mind. She did a similar U- turn yesterday over nominating two lay assessors to sit with the retired judge in parts of the Grenfell fire inquiry.  The same scary changeability can be seen … Read more

With all respect to concerned former soldiers, Theresa May is right to see off last minute demands for a selective amnesty

After appearing to side with her Defence Secretary on Wednesday in favouring a selective amnesty for former security forces in Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister has thought the better of it as the long delayed consultation on the Legacy Bill was launched. We are in the peculiar position of Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill broadly welcoming the Bill, while the  DUP leader Arlene Foster  contemplates a legal challenge to the High Court ruling that she wasn’t entitled to refuse to submit a … Read more

Superpatriotic ministers claim bias against soldiers in new Troubles investigations

Update.. May appears to back amnesty for former security forces   At Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday, Mrs May said the issue of a statute of limitations was “very important”. “At its heart, is the support and gratitude that we owe all those who have served in our armed forces,” she said. “The situation we have at the moment is that the only people being investigated for these issues are those in our armed forces or those who served in law enforcement … Read more

New revelations about the Ballymurphy massacre require urgent action by the British government

The report Mick highlights of a UVF sniper firing into Ballymurphy  at the time of the massacre in 1971 for  which up to now  1 Para was believed  to be mainly responsible,  underlines the paramount importance of finding out basic facts in dealing with the past. As I argued the other day, it is not only unacceptable but self-defeating for armchair soldiers in today’s battle of the narratives to thwart the rule of law, whether they are unionists defending the … Read more

On the legacy deadlock, equality before the law for the security forces is not moral equivalence with the IRA

Ruth Dudley Edwards has just commended “Legacy: What To Do About The Past in Northern Ireland”, a short book by Unionist councillor and redoubtable human right campaigner Jeff  Dudgeon,  edited mainly from the contributions at the conference on legacy legislation he organised in Belfast on March 3rd. As you’d expect, Ruth shares the passionately held view that the UK’s so far unseen draft Legacy Bill is based on a flawed approach developed by the traditional justice academic lawyers who to … Read more

I voted for peace, and all I got was this lousy culture war

I found this week’s 20 year commemoration of the Agreement quite surreal. Maybe it was because I was sick at home in my pyjamas and missed out on the bling of the big events. No basking in the glow of disgraced elderly politicians for me… Instead, I was more struck by how sad and stuck everything feels right now. It feels like we voted for peace, but all we got was this lousy culture war. By culture war, in this … Read more

A revised Belfast Agreement is needed more than nostalgia for 1998

Like Magna Carta, the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement has acquired the status of icon of the constitution. This is not altogether in its favour.  A good deal of nonsense is talked about Magna Carta.  Back in 1215, no sooner had the ink dried on the vellum of the fair copy, than bad King John denounced it. But the idea of curbing the unbridled power of the monarch could not be unborn and it finally evolved into government by the rule … Read more

To check Sinn Fein winning the propaganda war, a general amnesty should replace prosecutions in exchange for official disclosure, say unionist legal experts, arguing for the scrapping of the government’s Legacy Bill

“Transitional justice has facilitated republicans turning what ought to have been a hostile environment (namely, the historical record of over 2,000 attributable deaths, almost 60 percent of the total murder count, in a sectarian campaign of assassination and bombings – not to mention the accompanying litany of bloodshed, unblinking cruelty and lives destroyed) into a fertile soil allowing them to sustain a campaign of commemoration on ‘an industrial scale.  (The approach has) saturated thinking about the past to such an … Read more

Evaluating the Peace

Seán Brennan, from QUB, evaluates the state of our current peace… As the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement (GFA) approaches, much talk will focus on celebrating or condemning – in other words evaluating – our ‘peace process’. When evaluating Northern Ireland’s experience of peace, it may surprise some to learn that our experiences are not universally viewed as a success. In fact, it would be fair to say the ‘liberal peace’ – which is what we have … Read more

More than the leadership of Arlene Foster it’s about what the DUP under unprecedented pressure, is for

In “Arlene Foster’s authority is ebbing away“, Newton assesses the pressure on  her  in the Irish Times.  His fascinating analysis is  the latest example of local Kremlinology  peering into the suffocatingly tight networks that dominate these little parties.   But new outside elements are at play as never before to supplement rapid change at home , like the unpredictable fallout of Brexit and pressures for social change from London and Dublin. But for these pressures to have full effect, they must … Read more

“where reconciliation is a selective process, healing a pernicious and destabilising past remains as a challenge to us all.”

It’s had a muted response, both here on Slugger and in the wider media but this intervention from a group of Civic Unionists and unaligned others makes some senior points about the way NI politics is conducted as though they did not exist. I hope we’ll have a direct contribution from the group here on Slugger, but for now here’s the text… “We the undersigned desire a transparent and inclusive debate concerning rights, truth, equality and civil liberties and in … Read more

The draft agreement revealed: So far but yet so near

The cats have been let out of the bag thanks to the sources of Eamonn Mallie and Barney Rowan, (Sinn Fein?). From documents of “a dozen pages or so plus annexes and separate agreements,” we pick up the story below from a week ago last Friday. The secretary of state will no doubt be questioned on the details in a statement on the talks failure  when the Commons resumes tomorrow.  The Sinn Fein leadership will meet Theresa May on Wednesday … Read more

‘Cross Community Projects’ are Outdated in Today’s Northern Ireland

The concept of a polarisation of politics is one often talked about in today’s society, and in Brexit Britain and Trump’s America and so many other cases it is easy to see evidence of this polarisation. People follow different narratives that offer different (or alternative) facts and there is a demonised view of the motives of politicians that you do not agree with. In Northern Ireland polarisation of politics is nothing new to us, and it continues to this day … Read more

The British government are contemplating an all-round amnesty, claims Denis Bradley. If so, it’a too hot to handle for the local parties and should become a big ticket item for Westminster

 Denis Bradley has been spelling out a basic home truth about dealing with the past in discussion on BBC NI’s The View with his partner in the still definitive Eames Bradley report. “Tough love” for victims is overdue.   Writing in the Irish News, he has also made some startling assertions. That families should be given truth pertains to knowing what and why a death or injury happened during the four decades of the troubles. But there is something out and … Read more

At the sharpest end of dealing with the past, whatever the arguments, the Haggarty case takes your breath away

A Loyalist  “supergrass” who admitted the murders of five people among hundreds of offences has had a 35-year jail term reduced to six-and-a-half years for helping the police. Gary Haggarty, 45, was a former leader of an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) unit in north Belfast. Haggarty was a paid police informer for 11 years The judgment from Belfast Crown Court indicated that the 35-year jail term was reduced by 75% for the assistance given to prosecutors and then a further … Read more

Arlene Foster may be called to court to defend blocking the funding of legacy inquests – a key issue between the DUP and Sinn Fein

With exquisite timing for the renewed political talks, a case of judicial review  in the High Court has resumed which alleges that “former First Minister Arlene Foster unlawfully blocked Executive discussion of a funding plan aimed at clearing a backlog of legacy inquests for purely political reasons.” The charge has lain at her door for almost two years and she may yet be called to court to defend it.   In an earlier session the judge dismissed Mrs Foster’s bid to … Read more

The Loughinisland appeal, when “withdrawal” is not “recusal”

Now I may have been dreaming but I’m almost sure I read yesterday that Mr Justice McCloskey had announced he was still sticking with the Loughinisland appeal case, in spite of the objections from the lawyers representing the families and the police ombudsman. But no. I woke up to this morning to learn he had in fact withdrawn. Reporting howler in jumping the gun?  Maybe. But then there’s that legal language of fine distinction  but crucially different meaning like “ … Read more