THE LEGACY CONTAINER IS ABOUT TO BE OPENED – By Brian Rowan

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By noon on Friday the Northern Ireland Office will have published a long overdue report on its legacy consultation – a document that will be structured around the seventeen questions asked more than a year ago in May 2018.

That consultation was about the proposed structure to address the past; a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR), an Oral History Archive and reconciliation element. 

Together, they are what is known as the Stormont House Agreement of 2014, which has since become a disagreement.

Friday’s report of a few dozen pages will distil the responses to the consultation, but options papers to address the issues raised will not be published at this stage, nor will planned legacy committees be established in London and Belfast to consider next steps.

In terms of what was being planned some weeks back, this announcement will not be as detailed or as ambitious.

On Thursday, the political parties read the report under embargo. Other briefings will happen on Friday before noon publication.

We already know some of the concerns about the proposed structure to address the conflict period; and if those concerns are eventually addressed, then there will be a much bigger caseload for the Historical Investigations Unit. 

Some way will also have to be found to better soundproof information given privately to the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval. This to ensure that information cannot be used in prosecutions. 

Then there is the push for legal protections for military veterans; not part of the consultation here – and not part of the Stormont House Agreement – but if introduced at any stage will bring the question and the issue of amnesty into the headlines.

There will be a long way to travel from Friday’s published report to actually achieving a legacy process.

The intention had  been to keep this issue of the past away from the political talks. It will now become part of that conversation and negotiation. 

The legacy container is about to be opened.

As for the Stormont Talks, there was another leaders’ meeting with the governments on Thursday.

The big issues – including rights, language and identity – are still in trenches; part of arguments not agreements.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wants the governments to urgently publish their version of a possible agreement – this to challenge the parties.

Alliance negotiator Stephen Farry spoke of a process losing – not gaining – momentum.

No one has thrown the towel in, but there are concerns that an opportunity has been missed.

There is talk that another effort to get a deal will be made immediately after the twelfth.

We all know the issues that need to be resolved: “They’ve talked these things to death,” one insider commented.

A deal, if it is to be done will require political will and leadership.

Autumn is not far away when Brexit and RHI and Legacy and Boris will make things even more difficult.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process and contributed chapters to 'Reporting the Troubles' and 'Brexit and Northern Ireland: Bordering on Confusion'.

4 Comments

  1. Gerry Mander on

    There is but one and ONLY one legacy to confront in Norn Iron; a murderous terrorist campaign waged by both sides between 1966 (the first UVF murders) and 1997 (the final IRA ceasefire announcement). Anything the British government did during that time – whether it worked or not – was morally justified in combating an illegal armed insurgency… the terrorist acts were not justified, and no amount of propaganda and attempted historical revisionism will ever change that fact.

    That being said, I would grudgingly support a blanket amnesty across the board (with an explicit clause contained therein making clear in no uncertain terms that said blanket amnesty is not a tacit acknowledgement of equivalency between terrorists and security forces)… this ‘legacy’ nonsense needs to end… and NOW.

    Only in a morally bankrupt and spiritually broken state like the current (dis-)United Kingdom could such a dog-and-pony show of utterly spineless, politically expedient, moral relativism be played out…

  2. “Anything the British government did during that time – whether it worked or not – was morally justified…” Unless it so happens that those awful bad men (of the Uve & Ra) turn out to be in the PAID EMPLOYMENT of said government. That would add some layers of complications, huh?

    • Gerry Mander on

      Active, knowing collusion between HM Government and Loyalist paramilitaries is a myth, one which has never been proven and debunked at every turn… but SF and their confederates still continue to hold it up as the proverbial bogeyman… they started the war but complain because their own side suffers losses… what do you expect!?

      If you’re talking about informers on both sides being paid agents for the security services, that’s a very different thing altogether… those informers undoubtedly saved many lives at great risk to their own (whatever their actual motivations for being snitches).

      If security powers had stayed with Stormont and that Parliament had remained, the ‘Ra wouldn’t have lasted past 1975… now we can see why Brian Faulkner and the Unionist government so resented and fought against Westminster stepping in, however well within their rights the latter was to do so…

  3. “Myth… debunked”, “history revisionism”, “started the war”… There are many of ur points to take issue with, least of all prove wrong. Get ur nose out of the history books and stop re-quoting the lies therein.
    “Snitches” is something best suited to a Humphrey Bogart movie… Too mild for the underhanded tricks played on the people here – by it’s own Government.
    Yes, to reiterate my early point, this is no longer a case of black & white – the Pandora’s box of Legacy must be opened & examined in full.
    Prepare to have ur bubble burst!

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