Legacy issues: watching a policing tug of war on dealing with the Past – By Mark Thompson

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Last week Relatives for Justice published it’s submission-response on the consultation draft bill arising from the legacy agreement at Stormont House among the five main political parties and both governments.

Our submission was accompanied by video submissions from scores of families affected by all conflict participants outlining why they want the proposals implemented.

Notwithstanding concerns within the draft bill, giving effect to four agreed legacy bodies, we believe the proposals represent the best opportunity for addressing the past for the greater number of those bereaved and injured.

Our submission contains 56 recommendations grounded in international law and human rights – universal rights for all.

Last week also provided focus for the differing positions of the PSNI regarding legacy. On one hand the PSNI, the Chief Constable and his senior leadership, endorsed the legacy proposals, the need for implementation and a human rights approach. This was welcome.

On the other hand the Police Federation, the body representing the majority of rank and file officers, rejected out of hand the entire proposals.

Rather than see the upholding of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights, the investigation of egregious past violations, the Police Federation instead prefer to protect the reputation of the police – in the main the RUC – as they see the process as ‘picking on the police’. They’d prefer not to see past abuses resolved.

It is incredible that police officers, those public servants employed to detect crime and bring to account the perpetrators, would take such a position.

It certainly tells us the Police Federation lacks any understanding of even the basic concepts of human rights and importantly the law. It is a pathetic indictment.

It’s an indication of the partisan and political nature of policing that still exists and one of the core reasons as to why policing remains contentious – not least the PSNI stance in the courts in resisting disclosure on legacy cases. It is also why fewer and fewer nationalists join.

If ever there was a reason as to why we need an independent process to address the past the Police Federation have demonstrated it loudly and clearly

The legacy consultation was not an exercise in finding common ground nor some sort of benevolent act in the gift of any government or political party to permit those hurt and harmed a process of resolution. Nor is it a case of displacing or minimizing blame through a numbers game of who did what to whom or a balancing act.

Rights enshrined in domestic and international law must frame and guide the processes – rights that are contained in international covenants, conventions and treaties the UK ratified and to which it is a signatory. Rights form investigative remedy to reparations. Rights that are conveniently ignored.

If the legacy proposals, inclusive as they are, were to be scrapped as some seem to suggest it still leaves continuing legal obligations on the UK in respect to Article 2 cases – i.e. state killings and where collusion exists. These would then be the only cases that would have legal merit and to which the UK must legally respond.

That would really give the boys and girls of the political huffing and puffing brigade – the peddling of false legacy statistics crew – more to grapple with if they had to explain why they ditched a process that had the ability to examine all cases. It would be an irony for those who cry wolf.

A bit of de-dramatizing is certainly required and sense of reality brought to bear.

The proposals are the only way forward. They are rightly inclusive. They now require implementation.

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About Author

Mark is a founder member and the Director of Relatives for Justice. Mark is responsible for the strategic development and management of Relatives for Justice and has overseen the growth of the organisation from a successful and dedicated voluntary campaigning group to the professional advocacy and support organisation that it is today. Mark’s experience in pro-actively holding those responsible to account and in ensuring that the needs and experiences of victims of the conflict are identified and championed makes him one of the most recognisable and respected figures in the debate on how we Deal with the Past. He has make representations on families’ behalf at US Congress and the United Nations as well as to government in both Britain and Ireland.

1 Comment

  1. The full facts about the ‘troubles’ will never be officially revealed because they would be much too devastating to the Establishment i.e. British Intelligence role in ‘the troubles’, including the top politicians who authorised the collusion with loyalist death squads and their role in the many deaths due to their paid informants in all the paramilitary groups. UK state broadcaster BBC used a Panorama program to pin the blame on a retired army general who was the top army general at the time. Utterly absurd of course that such a massive operation could have operated without knowledge, authority and instructions from Downing Street, etc.

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