When it comes to public enquiries the British government seems to lose all interest in privatization and outsourcing. It is quite happy, if not over-keen, when selling off the crown jewels of State infrastructure, such as water and railways, and doesn’t lose a night’s sleep about out-sourcing the running of prisons to US multi-national corporations. As to the NHS, it likes nothing better than mortgaging the tax revenues of future generations up to the hilt under the PPFI, as long as its friends in big business can turn a lucrative profit.
But when it comes to inquiring into the conduct of the British State in the north of Ireland, all talk of out-sourcing a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission [TJ&RC] is scoffed at as unfeasible if not ridiculous, when in fact the opposite is true. For to do otherwise will negate the whole purpose of a TJ&RC, as it would allow those accused of misdeeds, i.e. the British State, to conduct an enquiry into itself. Which is something even London’s Metropolitan police no longer insist upon. If the shoe were on the other foot, few people would believe it feasible for the PIRA to name those who were to sit on an inquiry which was to look into how people came to suffer at its hands?
At this moment in the north of Ireland, two UK government appointees, Lord Eames and Denis Bradley, are deciding on just how the years of the north of Irelands ‘long war’ can best be looked into, although in today’s world, where white becomes black, the wags on the street prefer to use the term ‘covered up’.
If ever there was a case for outsourcing a government sponsored enquiry this is it, as it has become increasingly clear that if a Commission is to look with unprejudiced eyes at how the UK State criminally colluded with Irish para-militaries, it cannot be made up of political appointees such as the two aforementioned gentlemen, both of whom can be described as being members of either the British or Irish establishments.
Indeed Robert Eames is a member of the English House of Lords and as such he will have sworn an oath of allegiance to the English queen and the State she rules over. By stating these facts I am not casting aspirations about either man’s character, simply stating that due to their close association with the British and Irish establishment they will not inspire confidence in Ireland amongst those who suffered most due to UK State collusion.
Any TJ&RC will be a difficult enough project and if it is to have the full support of the people of Ireland then it must be seen to be open, fair and impartial. One of the problems is that by accepting the GFA in it entirety, SF have accepted that the UK State is an equal partner, with, dare I say it, no selfish, economic or strategic interest in the North of Ireland. Thus the British government quite understandably demands the right to appoint the members of a TJ&RC, which for most nationalists and republicans would be like allowing a criminal accused of foul deeds to appoint both the judge and jury who are about to try them.
This cannot be allowed to happen and not only because those who have suffered and lost love ones due to the criminal collusion that took place between UK State agencies and criminal elements are crying out for justice, but also because the very fabric of British and Irish democracy depends upon it. Those who have pledged to uphold the law on our behalf, cannot break it with impunity then expect us to trust them with setting up a TJ@RC.
One of the main reason why criminal collusion was allowed to take hold in the north of Ireland was because the British State refused to admit they were engaged in a war against the PIRA. They created the myth that throughout the long war they were simply fighting against a band of criminals lead by mafia type godfathers, whilst in reality below the surface they themselves were acting in the most appalling and criminal manner. We should not be surprised about this as that has been how historically the British State has fought all the colonial insurgencies it has faced.
But this was not an insurgency within some far-flung colonial outpost, but within the the United Kingdom itself and by fighting this war in an illegal manner, the British government set a precedent which seeped into the criminal justice system and the UK’s law enforcement agencies. For example, the highly political, strong-armed and often illegal methods used by the English police against striking miners in 1984, would in all probability never have occurred if the British State had not struck a precedent in the north of Ireland when combatting the Republican Movement.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that with the Good Friday Agreement the British State has managed to revert to the status quo in the north of Ireland, albeit a status quo that has managed to entice and incorporate elements of the Irish Republican Movement.
Nevertheless it is the status quo all the same and I am certain with this will come a rewriting of recent Irish history, i.e, British State benign, British army guarantors of freedom and democracy, etc, etc, and all those who opposed them bad. Which would be a travesty of the truth about what actually occurred in the north of Ireland; and not only during the years of the long war but since the northern state-let’s inception.
It is thus imperative that there is an International TJ&RC, for if not the perpetrators having become the victors, will be writing the history of this war and the victims will be assigned the role of the villains of the peace.*
First published on The Blanket. 06.02.08.