Valid objections to a history of the British government’s role in the Troubles should not stand in the way of accountability

Solemn commemorations have just been  held on the 50th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan no warning  bombings which claimed the lives of 34 people  and injured hundreds more. These atrocities were committed by loyalists  in the middle of the UWC  strike in the North which within weeks had overthrown  new  British -Irish structures and the recently formed power sharing Executive.  At the time  the Dublin coalition government which had negotiated the Sunningdale deal the previous  November was strangely passive …

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The Courts and the PSNI are challenging the UK Government on national security. Victims groups should give the Legacy Commssion a chance

Chief ICRIR Commissioner Sir Declan Morgan, former Lord Chief Justice  We have just reached a watershed in investigating the Troubles. In a momentous and  highly controversial  development the cumbersomely named Independent Commission on Reconciliation and Information Retrieval (ICRIR) – which I prefer to call the Legacy Commission-  replaces the open court system from today. The impact is huge whether the Commission gets off the ground or not. More than 330 Troubles- related Police Ombudsman cases will not be  go forward. …

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A BBC reporter’s recollections of the UWC strike and reflections on lessons learned

Freeze frame from video of Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: 50 Years On event in Crescent Arts Centre - Connal Parr is standing at the podium - seated near him are Dawn Purvis, Carmel Gates, Harry Donaghy, Jackie Redpath and Jackie McDonald.

I  thought I’d  rescue a  few memories of my own as a young BBC reporter  from  “comments”, on the fascinating reflections by loyalist  veterans about the UWC Strike hosted by Alan Meban on Slugger video. A couple of BBC anecdotes from the time. The controller Dick Francis and Head of Programmes Ronnie Mason secretly drove up an emergency generator from Dublin in case of a blackout and parked it in the enclosed yard. They felt like the 7th Cavalry riding …

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The Kenova report questions the whole basis of dealing with the past. But will anybody take up its challenge?

Chief Constable John Boutcher’s tone was measured but his words were scathing. On the face of it, his three most striking conclusions throw dealing with the past into the melting pot all over again. I want here to deal with the wider implications of the interim Kenova report  on Stakeknife,.    These can be seen already,   in advance of the final version due for publication after the victims and families have responded to their individual private briefings. Firstly the Stakeknife …

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Dealing with the Past is now in limbo. For the sake of victims and the government’s honour, a prompt reset is required

Chief Legacy Commssioner Sir Declan Morgan former  Chief Justice    What does the future hold for Troubles victims and relatives now?  Probably as long a future as ever without resolution, before sliding into history.  You might think the reason for most killings lies as much in the identity of the victim  as the perpetrator. But people want to know more; could  the murder have been prevented, a claim of mistaken identity,  the phone wasn’t working,”  pour encourager les autres the …

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Give it time. The funding gap will be narrowed if a united Executive discover a change of culture and keep their heads

Financial responsibility in the Guildhall ( photo)  The negotiations have begun.   First off, the shiny new Executive have said thanks and no thanks to the Treasury . “ Thanks guys for £ 313mn but no thanks to your demand for us  to raise regional rates by 15%.” “What?” the Treasury might reply, “ You refuse to raise a measly £ 113 mn in exchange for us writing off your debt of £550mn? You must be crazy”. Let’s get a bit …

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The UK’s deal with the DUP neither breaches impartiality in government nor offers a vision that could safeguard the Union

NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris (UKG photo) By doing its deal with the DUP to get them back into the Assembly, has the British government abandoned its legally binding pledges in the GFA to act with “rigorous impartiality” in government and place  “no external impediment” to the free exercise of the public will in a border poll? Has it instead presented a vision of the Union that will attract the support it claims “would copper-fasten Northern Ireland’s political …

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John Bruton, taoiseach in the early stages of the peace process, stayed relevant to the end

John Bruton who has just died aged 76  was a slightly accidental Fine Gael taoiseach  during the turbulent political era  of the swing door coalitions of the  1980s and 1990s  which finally ended the long period of Fianna Fail as the natural party of government. Bruton’s rival Bertie Ahern who  appeared  to be heading to restore  Fianna Fail’s fortunes after narrowly defeating him in 1997, described him as “a natural gentleman. We got on very well.” John Major  who succeeded …

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We enjoyed the Stormont opening comedy, now it’s time to do better than rattling the begging bowl

Watching and listening to the local coverage from Stormont  in London which I do sparingly, I was mightily impressed by the energy and drama – all that walking up and down the stairs – on Saturday and Monday. A non-native wouldn’t  have followed a quarter of it but they should have been impressed by the synchronised unity of the  female duopoly of two children of former rival paramilitaries. Such amity is now almost as traditional as the King’s speech at …

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The Stormont parties now have no excuse for failing to govern Northern Ireland

Picture; The Irish Sea  So what next? The coming few days will give us clues. All parties now have no  excuse for failing to work together. Nationalists have the historic gains in human rights and  the  distinction of the  title First Minister.  Compared to the careful neutrality of the GFA,  Unionists can point to a powerful boost to pro Union sentiment  in a document which is  entitled “Safeguarding the Union”. Most trading between GB and NI is not quite the …

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If this really is Sunak’s deal with the DUP, why is he taking such a hell of a political risk?

Rishi Sunak offers to sacrifice Brexit freedoms to re-establish government in Northern Ireland.” This is how the Daily Telegraph has headlined an exclusive by its Europe editor James Crisp. His story claims to flesh out at long last what  the DUP  has been negotiating with Chris Heaton Harris and co. these long months. Quite a story. It may be intended  to add credibility to the speculation that a deal is imminent. I’ve pulled together an account from Crisp’s postings on …

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OK Mr Heaton Harris. Give the DUP yet another few more days. Then drop the humbug and handover that £3 billion. You have no honourable alternative

Perhaps the DUP will make the leap, perhaps they won’t. What has long been clear is that the tactics of both party and government are humbug. The DUP  could exercise far more effective pressure on smoothing over the frictions of the Windsor Framework from within a united Assembly. Suzanne Breen has a good guess about the state of play.  While there was no vote, my interpretation from what has been said is that Carla (Lockhart) currently doesn’t support accepting a …

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Cecil Taylor remembered. A BBC News NI chief who kept his head and steadied the nerves of colleagues under attack throughout the Troubles.

  Cecil Taylor in the tiny BBC NI Newsroom, 1960s  My first boss in the BBC Cecil Taylor, BBCNI News Editor  at the beginning of the Troubles and an influential editorial figure in the Corporation for many years thereafter, died this week aged 96. His career  ranged from another world in the 1950s through the 1970s and 80s when all had changed utterly.   The pre-Troubles BBC reflected  the dominant forces of  the establishment  which were unionist with a liberal veneer …

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Former chief justice Morgan is unrepentant. Despite Dublin’s Strasbourg challenge to his legacy commission, he insists: ” I can make it work.”

Chief Legacy Commissioner Sir Declan Morgan Dublin’s challenge before the European Human Rights Court at Strasbourg  to the UK  Government’s Legacy Act replacing legal process with  the mainly administrative and arguably closed process of a legacy commission has an air of  political inevitability about it. Whatever their belief in the strength of their case, they could hardly expose such an open flank to a militantly self righteous Sinn Fein.  Not only  Irish nationalism north and south but the UK Labour …

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Although it has taken at least two years, the old magic money tree is delivering again – perhaps in time for Christmas

For several months now, I’ve been lost in admiration for how political journalists and commentators in Slugger and elsewhere have been making bricks without straw  in trying to report the state of politics. But now it seems, if  the panels in late night’s The View are to be believed, a mad rush is on  to complete a deal to restore Stormont –   perhaps as early as next Tuesday when Parliament rises for Christmas.  This may be a tad optimistic but …

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Towards an agreed ethical State. How the Legacy Commission would work with the politicians to achieve it.

white and black train toy

To add a note to my post about the Legacy Act and its Commission. To avoid arid whataboutery, we’ll need to go highfalutin. A crucial aim is  to create an agreed ethical environment emerging out of history. Without it victims are unlikely to obtain  much case by case satisfaction when physical  evidence is so lacking. People – and the official record and records of all kinds  –  will need to start talking. The two governments and all parties  are in …

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Give the Legacy Commission a chance. The NI parties have failed to agree on an alternative for 13 years

The wholesale opposition to the UK government’s  new minted  Legacy Act was predictable and expected. At the same time the good faith of the all the politicians involved  is suspect, as Newton Emerson pitilessly described over a year ago. At every level, rejections shamelessly cancel out. All Stormont’s political parties oppose the legislation, currently being rushed through Westminster. But unionists object only to an amnesty for terrorists; Sinn Féin to an amnesty for former security force personnel. Protecting soldiers is …

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A call to recast the British- Irish relationship without always angling for Irish unity

The independent minded nationalist Jarlath Kearney has been doing some interesting break-out thinking. Couched in strategic language to distance his message from the old zero sum debate, he laments the cooling of the British -Irish relationship  whose revival he sees as the only way to advance politics in the North.  For Kearney, that  relationship has to mean much more than closer diplomatic relations. The primordial Ireland-UK challenge is straightforward: there is an absolute, overriding requirement to rediscover and replenish a …

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Will London heed appeals to join with Dublin to start sorting out Northern Ireland’s political mess?

In a 130 page  report, the Constitution Unit of University College London has reviewed how the GFA has worked out over the past quarter century. It used party manifestoes and focus group and elite group interviews to deliver a sober account which is necessarily an outsider’s product. No bad thing if it succeeds in creating greater attention in London in particular. We are acutely aware that few politicians in Great Britain today have invested much time in understanding Northern Ireland’s …

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Pleas for greater speed and transparency must be heeded if the Windsor Framework is to succeed

Photo: spoof  customs on the border The latest verdict  on the Windsor Framework   will be seized on by some  to justify  the DUP’s reluctance to re-enter the Assembly  for a long time. By how many remains to be seen,   It doesn’t help that the sharpest criticisms which are shared by NI local  business have been aired not by them but by unionists who are acute Framework sceptics.  The verdict  comes in a report by  the House of Lords sub-committee on …

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