Media, Villiers, Money, Truth & Power – Time for Truth, Time for Hard Questions

Stephen Walker’s BBC reports from the Tory party conference are good focusing as they do on Haass and dealing with the past, in addition to flags and marches.


The British government’s appointed, not elected, representative to the north has already made several interventions on the subject of Dr. Haass’ role – all of these seek to set the tone and agenda – she makes a poor pretense at neutrality. I’m not impressed, but then neither am I surprised. The British government make partisan interventions and then seek to slither and serpentine weave out of accountability blaming it all on the ‘natives’.


Comments by Villiers saying that there is not enough money for a process, in an attempt to caution and curb Haass, ring hollow. Especially when one considers the costs incurred to the taxpayer in scores of legacy cases before the courts in which the PSNI, defending the old RUC, the MoD, British Home Office and NIO. Costs spent regularly without any mention at all.


Relatives have very limited grant aid certificates in inquests and other judicial forums and they, the families, along with their lawyers, bear the brunt of public criticisms regarding costs. This is not fair, it is political and despicable when bereaved families seek only truth.


If we add up the Patten Severance payments, retiring and rehiring, hearing loss, gratuity payments to the RUC reserve, the UDR/RIR pay-offs, the prison officers Patten-style payouts too its roughly over an estimated billion pounds. Costs were never an issue. And we could go on…


There was no mention of costs when Theresa Villiers, the NIO and Matt Baggott ran to the High Court seeking an injunction on our organisation and KRW Law recently concerning families receiving public documents about the State killings of their loved ones– a case they later dropped as examination would have shown that the grounds of their injunction were entirely bogus. Though in all honesty this was really the political policemen of C2 &C3 and the old guard of the NIO.


More in depth reporting is required to expose the myth of costs, as a proper compliant truth commission would be more cost effective both financially and to society also. The reality is that we can’t afford not to comprehensively deal with the past, the real costs are too great.


Anyway back to Haass – Theresa Villiers and her government are not independent neutral observers of what has happened here. Presenting the issues as if it’s a matter for the parties of the Executive to sort out won’t wash with the people on the ground. Stormont too need to get to grips with this and involve both governments. A fact sorely witnessed when Villiers rejected the call for a public inquiry into the Omagh bomb – her announcement smack bang at the same time as Amnesty International were launching their report calling for a single mechanism to address the past here. Crass somehow not an apt enough adjective.


It was a fundamental error of judgment for any appointment on the subject of dealing with the past to have involved only the Stormont parties, as underlined with the above insensitive announcement and obnoxious abuse of power. That is if the politicians in power really want the past dealt with. “The Past” appears to have been an add on if you have been following.


The reality is that like the Consultative Group on the Past (CGP) Haass will quickly learn that this is the real substantive issue to be addressed. And to be fair the CGP were committed to doing the right thing and genuinely engaged and delivered a report and recommendations that had great potential to move things forward yet they all ditched it for differing reasons. Not good enough at all.


Oh and the media could ask Villiers et al what is their government going to do about the Past? Are they going to tell the truth? Time not only for truth but for those with the ultimate say concerning the north to be confronted with the sensible questions too.